On November 5, Israel’s Heritage Minister said on radio that dropping a nuclear bomb was “one way” to deal with Gaza. He was also dismissive about providing humanitarian aid and commented “we wouldn’t have given the Nazis humanitarian aid. There’s no such thing as innocents in Gaza.” The world was shocked, and the next day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended the Minister. But left-leaning newspaper Haaretz said he should have been fired, along with his party leader who has said the Gaza Strip “should be flattened” and wiped “off the map”.
The incident upset the corridors of power globally and locally, prompting the Editor of pro-Netanyahu newspaper, Yisrael Hayom, to condemn the regime. “Cabinet ministers blurting out incendiary rhetoric only to be reprimanded and then doing it all over again as if nothing happened,” wrote Uri Dagon. “It's time to think out loud rather than in a whisper: Benjamin Netanyahu needs to go as soon as possible.”
“Political thuggery” of Israel’s right wing and a lack of a persuasive centre-left alternative have pushed the country to the brink” The Guardian
Politics are complicated, but Israel’s current catastrophe isn’t just about politics. It’s about religious fanaticism and raw ambition. It’s about the future of Israel. After a storied career as a war hero and Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Netanyahu began his fall after being charged in 2019 with a number of corrupt practices. To remain in power, he joined forces with ultra-right fanatics and struck a “Faustian Bargain”: He could avoid a trial and possible imprisonment and, in return, would push their ruthless agenda.
Ever since, religious extremists have been given a green light to illegally annex Palestinian property in the West Bank and the Haredim, or ultra-Orthodox, became exempt from paying taxes or serving in the military. Such political favoritism has eroded the rule of law, democratic rights, and pluralism in the State of Israel, a reality that culminated in mass street protests this year by Israelis after Netanyahu attempted to tamper with the judiciary to suit his political purposes.
About 73 percent of Israelis are Jewish, and most are not fanatics. The remainder of the country is populated by a mix of Christians, non-Islamist Druze Arabs, and Muslims. But now everyone living there is subjected to a government dominated by extremists and must fight a war that, according to Haaretz and others, was triggered by government security failures that resulted in the October 7 massacre. Now as this government prosecutes a war in such a ferocious way in Gaza, world opinion turns against Israel and its people. “Entire swaths of the government belong to the dangerous far right,” stated Haaretz. “Netanyahu isn’t the solution, but the problem.”
It's emblematic that the shocking “nuclear” threat was made by Amicha Eliyahu, a ranking member of Israel’s most troublesome political bloc — the “settlers” in the West Bank. For years, they have seized lands, in contravention of international law, and intimidated and killed Palestinians along the way. Now 500,000 strong, and in control of 40 percent of the West Bank, their tactics are reviled globally but ignored and encouraged by the Netanyahu regime.
Since the war began, their tactics have escalated, opening another war front. According to The Times of Israel, settlers have committed more than 100 assaults since October 7, sometimes under the protection of Israel’s military, according to Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.
Masked settlers attack a Palestinian olive farmer on his land. 2020 Getty ImagesSettler toughs taking a break at a kid’s park
“The [settler] attacks have allegedly taken place in at least 62 West Bank locations and have caused the death of at least six Palestinians by live fire. Palestinians were killed in clashes with settlers in the West Bank village of Qusra, close to Nablus, on October 11, and two more were gunned down the following day when settlers allegedly opened fire on a funeral procession,” reported The Times of Israel.
This turmoil has grabbed the attention of allies. The European Union labels it “settler terrorism” and has asked Israel to stop it immediately. President Joe Biden last week said “they’re attacking Palestinians in places they’re entitled to be. It has to stop now.”
The consensus inside Israel is that Netanyahu must go, and a new cabinet must be assembled that proportionally represents all Israelis and adheres to western norms. This one has no credibility. It launched devastating air attacks on Gaza and then an invasion to destroy a mobile guerrilla army that’s fled or hidden. It has displaced civilians, turned half the place into rubble, and still appears to have no end game in sight apart from revenge.
Initially, Netanyahu said Gaza would be invaded and Israel’s forces would leave once Hamas was eradicated. Then a possible plan was leaked, prepared by Israeli intelligence, that all of Gaza’s two million residents would be relocated to Egypt, a notion that Cairo immediately stated would constitute a “declaration of war”. Netanyahu then pivoted and told ABC News that Israel would manage security in the Gaza Strip for an “indefinite period” after it dismantled Hamas.
That was immediately slapped down by Biden. That would perpetuate the “frozen conflict”. Others speculated that, given Israeli’s current crazed leadership, continuing the occupation would replicate the West Bank quagmire where Palestinians remain, but religious settlers are allowed to expropriate large amounts of land, under the watchful eye of Israel’s occupation force.
“Gaza cannot continue to be run by Hamas. It's also clear that Israel cannot occupy Gaza,” stated American Secretary of State Antony Blinken on November 8. “Now the reality is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict, but it is imperative that the Palestinian people [and Palestinian Authority] be central to the governance of Gaza and the West Bank. No reoccupation of Gaza.”
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Tragically, Israelis are trapped in a dysfunctional democracy. They are divided, ignored, and angry. Netanyahu recently had to leave a podium, where he was to address a group of elite reserve soldiers, after one shouted “you are a liar”, among other insults. The war has also upset Israel’s minorities, who pay taxes and whose children served in its military.
On November 5, leader of Israel’s 150,000 Druze people requested revisions to the country’s Basic Law that was changed in 2018 to limit protection to Jewish residents only. According to The Jerusalem Post, Druze leader Muwafaq Tarif wrote that The Basic Law does not guarantee “our rights” and that, given the war, “it’s time that [situation] changes… Many Druze people serve in the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces], some of whom have been killed during the Israel-Hamas war.”
Despite dissension, Israelis will remain united during the war. “The real concern is what happens after the war,” wrote Hayom’s Dagon. “It is clear that Netanyahu will not throw in the towel – unlike the IDF senior brass, the intelligence officials, and practically everyone else who is responsible for the October 7 debacle. I dread the prospect of Israel having won the war in Gaza only to lose its collective solidarity as a nation; I fear the chaos that will reign here – which will make the judicial reform protests pale in comparison.
The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.
Reprinted from [email protected] - Diane Francis on America and the World
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