Bibi, a Weak Right

Netanyahu at the Knesset in Jerusalem, September 11, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

Pictures of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being hustled to safety when missiles were fired at Ashdod just as he was beginning a campaign rally, serve, in the eyes of his rivals and critics, as testaments to the cowardice of “Mr. Terrorism.” The prime minister’s removal from any locale under life-threatening fire is part of the security protocol dictated by the Shin Bet security service. Nevertheless, the scene was embarrassing, because it underscores Netanyahu’s weakness when it comes to action and his cowardice in the diplomatic realm.

Netanyahu offers the public promises and threats along the lines of “there will be no choice but to embark on a campaign, a war against Gaza” and hints that toppling Hamas will “apparently” be on the agenda (Kan Bet radio, September 12). But he obscures his own role in nourishing the clashes that have lasted for many long months already, in which thousands of Gazans protest along the border fence, carry out attacks, launch rockets at Israel and are killed or wounded by the Israel Defense Forces.

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Netanyahu knows that the solution to the crisis in the Gaza Strip isn’t a military one. He has heard this from IDF chiefs of staff and heads of the Shin Bet, and he himself has sought for a long time now to reach an unofficial deal with Hamas through the mediation of Egypt and the United Nations. He has also allowed Qatar to send millions of dollars to the Hamas government. He has even granted Gaza’s Hamas government de facto recognition and demanded that it carry out its responsibilities there. This policy has so far prevented a large-scale military campaign, but it’s nothing more than a barricade that can’t last in the face of the anger, frustration and poverty that are setting Gaza on fire.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 39Haaretz

To reach an agreement in Gaza requires both political and diplomatic courage, as well as the abandonment of empty slogans promising the reoccupation of Gaza and a decisive victory over Hamas. It requires a leader who will tell the public the truth – that the solution to the lack of security in communities near Gaza, to the rocket fire and the disrupted sleep in bomb shelters, lies in Gaza’s economic rehabilitation. And that requires ending the blockade, building industrial infrastructure that will create jobs and allowing freedom of movement for both goods and people.

Netanyahu is afraid to confront this truth. He prefers to quote the slogans coined by Avigdor Lieberman – who threatened to liquidate Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh – and to lie by claiming that a military campaign will remove the threat. Electing him to another term of office will merely ensure more of the same weakness that has already given rise to pointless rounds of fighting.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.