Opinion |

Netanyahu's Scapegoat - Gaza

Jerusalem's disregard of Hamas' amended charter, even before its official publication, is a continuation of the rejectionist line laid down by the prime minister

Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a discussion about the Report of the State Comptroller for Operation Protective Edge at the Knesset, April 19, 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a discussion about the Report of the State Comptroller for Operation Protective Edge at the Knesset, April 19, 2017Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS
Carolina Landsmann
Carolina Landsmann

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear this week that he has a policy. “I’m not prepared to accept drizzles,” he said at a meeting in the Knesset about the state comptroller’s report on the 2014 Gaza war. He apparently meant he is not willing to allow Gazan gunfire or rocket fire at Israel without responding. “We need to renew our deterrence, to power it up.”

But if the Gazans are given the stick for every drizzle of military aggression by Hamas, wouldn’t it be proper to give them a carrot for every drizzle of diplomatic pragmatism?

Since the beginning of this month, reports have emerged that Hamas is soon to publish a new charter, in which it agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, differentiates itself from the Muslim Brotherhood, defines itself as a “Palestinian-Islamist national resistance and liberation movement,” pulls back from the anti-Semitic line that characterized its original charter, and distinguishes between Jews (the People of the Book and Judaism as a religion) and the Zionist project (racist and aggressive).

Will Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman be sent to peel the carrots? Will the prime minister view the change in a positive light? After all, the Hamas charter is a strong bargaining chip in the hands of the right wing (“Have you read the Hamas charter?!”), which tries to prove that there is no one to talk to, because the Palestinians only want to annihilate the Jews.

The few commentators who mentioned the change in the charter made clear that these are minor alterations, because Hamas does not consider a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders to be the end to its demands. It is committed to continuing to fight for the liberation of all Palestinian land, and it does not recognize Israel.

Everyone had pragmatic explanations for the shift: “Hamas’ moderate declarations, intended to present it as a political movement, are also useful in its aspiration to take over not only Gaza but all the territories held by the Palestinian Authority,” wrote Assaf Gibor on the news website NRG. “Hamas wants to be a regional diplomatic player,” Gilad Sher explained on Ynet, adding that the changes were intended to achieve international legitimacy.

Jerusalem’s disregard of the amended charter, even before its official publication, is a continuation of the rejectionist line laid down by Netanyahu. Recognition of any changes in Hamas will ruin the image that Netanyahu has tried for so many years to implant in the world’s consciousness: There is no difference between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and between Hamas and ISIS, and they are all wild animals. To expect political moderation from the Palestinians is like standing in front of a monkey and expecting it to evolve before your very eyes into a human. Netanyahu’s life’s work is to blur the differences between moderate Palestinians, armed Palestinians and fearsome extremist Islam, and to prove that there never was anyone to talk to, because they don’t talk; because the possibility of reaching a diplomatic agreement with Hamas is “hallucinatory,” like thinking about an agreement with Syria or ISIS.

Who cares that the attempt to achieve international legitimacy is the explanation all agree upon for the moderated tone of the charter, and that an organization seeking international legitimacy by definition cannot be compared to an organization like ISIS?

The furious arrows directed by the bereaved parents at the prime minister at the meeting about the 2014 Gaza war in the Knesset on Wednesday were intercepted and manipulated so they struck Likud MKs David Bitan and Miki Zohar. Once again, Netanyahu managed to emerge more or less unscathed, and let the moral sludge cover the Mizrahim on duty, just as the Border Police and Kfir Brigade are tarred by the crimes of the occupation while the pilots go completely untouched.

This is a mistake. It is important to direct the criticism at the prime minister. He is responsible for the way Israelis relate to war in Gaza as a seasonal event. He is responsible for the belief that Gaza is a leper colony, that whoever goes in there dies and even its inhabitants have no chance of coming out alive. He is responsible for the feeling that change is impossible and so there is no point in trying. He is the one who should give up his chair to someone who is willing to fight, to turn over every stone to find a better future, instead of volunteering his citizens to risk their lives in a war to preserve his own rule.

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