Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The War Netanyahu Cannot Possibly Win
By Ramzy Baroud
Al-Jazeerah, CCUN, July 20, 2016
When the bodies of three Israeli settlers - Aftali Frenkel and Gilad
Shaar, both 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 - were found on June 30 near Hebron
in the southern West Bank, Israel went into a state of mourning and a
wave of sympathy flowed in from around the world. The three had
disappeared 18 days earlier in circumstances that remain unclear.
The entire episode, particularly after its grim ending, seemed to
traumatize Israelis into ignoring harsh truths about the settlers and
the militarization of their society. Amid a portrayal of the three as
hapless youths, although one was a 19-year-old soldier, commentators
have failed to provide badly needed context to the events. Few, if any,
assigned the blame where it was most deserved - on expansionist policies
which have sown hatred and bloodshed.
Before the discovery of
the bodies, the real face of Netanyahu’s notoriously right-wing
government was well-known. Few held Illusions about how “peaceful” an
occupation could be if run by figures such as Foreign Minister Avigdor
Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, and Deputy Defence Minister
Danny Danon. But because “children” - the term used by Netanyahu himself
- were involved, even critics didn’t expect an exercise in political
There was sympathy elicited for the missing
settlers case, but it quickly vanished in the face of an Israeli
response (in the West Bank, Jerusalem and later in a full-scale war on
Gaza) largely seen in the crucible of world opinion as disproportionate
and cruel. Rather than being related to the tragic death of three
youths, this response obviously reflected Netanyahu’s grand political
As mobs of Israeli Jews went out on an ethnic
lynching spree in Israel, Jerusalem and the West Bank that some likened
to a “pogrom”, occupation soldiers conducted a massive arrest campaign
of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly Hamas members and supporters.
The Islamic Resistance Movement Hamas said it had no role in the death
of the settlers, and this appears plausible since they rarely hesitate
to take credit for something carried out by their military wing. Israeli
military strategists were well aware of that.
This war on Hamas,
however, has little to do with the killed settlers, and everything to do
with the political circumstances that preceded their disappearance.
On May 15, two Palestinian youths, Nadim Siam Abu Nuwara, 17, and
Mohammed Mahmoud Odeh Salameh, 16, were killed by Israeli soldiers while
taking part in a protest commemorating the anniversary of the Nakba, or
‘Great Catastrophe’. Video footage shows that Nadim was innocently
standing with a group of friends before collapsing as he was hit by an
Israeli army bullet.
The Nakba took place 66 years ago when the
so-called Arab-Israeli conflict emerged. An estimated one million
Palestinians were forced out of their homes as they fled a Zionist
invasion. Israel was established on the ruins of that Palestine.
Nadim and Mohammed, like the youths of several generations since, were
killed in cold blood as they walked to remember that exodus. In Israel,
there was no outrage. However, Palestinian anger, which seems to be in
constant accumulation - being under military occupation and enduring
harsh economic conditions - was reaching a tipping point.
In some way, the deaths of these Palestinian youths were a distraction
from the political disunity that has afflicted Palestinian leadership
and society for years. Their deaths were a reminder that Palestine, as
an idea and a collective plight and struggle, goes beyond the confines
of politics or even ideology.
Their deaths reminded us that
there is much more to Palestine than the whims of the aging Palestinian
Authority ‘President’ Mahmoud Abbas and his Ramallah-based henchmen, or
even Hamas’s regional calculations following the rise and fall of the
The Israeli reaction to the settlers’ death has
been different. After the discovery of the bodies, fellow settlers and
right-wing Israelis began exacting revenge from Palestinian communities.
The mob was united by the slogan “death to the Arabs”, reviving a
long-disused notion of a single Palestinian identity that precedes the
emergence of Fatah and Hamas.
Perhaps paradoxically, the grief
and anger provoked by the death of Mohammad Abu Khdeir, 17, who was
burnt alive by Israeli settlers as part of this lashing out, has
furthered this reawakening of a long-fragmented Palestinian national
This identity that had suffered due to Israeli walls,
military tactics and the Palestinians’ own disunity, has been glued back
together in a process that resembles the events which preceded the first
and second uprisings of 1987 and 2000 respectively.
unlike in the previous Intifadas, the hurdles towards a unified voice
this time seem insurmountable. Abbas is a weak leader who has done so
much to meet Israel’s security expectations and so very little to defend
the rights of his people. He is a relic from a bygone era who merely
exists because he is the best option Israel and the US have at the
In the aftermath of the Israeli violent response to the
killing of the settlers, Abbas laboured to coordinate with the massive
Israeli search. At times, he stayed away as Israeli troops brutalised
Palestinians in the West Bank.
It is clear that there can be no
third Intifada that leaves Abbas and his wretched political apparatus in
place. This is precisely why Palestinian Authority goons prevented many
attempts by Palestinians in the West Bank to protest the Israeli
violence unleashed in the occupied territories, which finally culminated
into a massive war against Gaza that has killed and wounded hundreds.
Whatever credit Abbas supposedly gained by closing ranks with
Hamas to form a unity government last June has been just as quickly
lost. It has been overshadowed by his own failures to live up to
commitment under the unity deal, and the relevance of his ‘authority’
was quickly eclipsed by Israeli violence, highlighting his and his
government’s utter irrelevance to Israel’s political calculations.
When Israel launched its massive arrest campaign that mainly targeted
Hamas in the West Bank, Hamas’s political wing was already considering
“alternatives” to the unity government in Ramallah.
objectives were not being met. The unity deal was meant to achieve
several goals: end Hamas’s political isolation in Gaza, resulting from
the intensifying of the siege by Egypt’s Abdul Fatah al-Sisi, solving
the economic crisis in the Strip, and also allowing Hamas to revert to
its old brand, as a resistance movement first and foremost.
if Hamas succeeded in establishing a new brand based on the
resistance/political model, Israel was determined to deactivate any
potential for Palestinian unity. Destroying that unity became almost an
obsession for Netanyahu.
The disappearance of the settlers gave
Netanyahu’s quest a new impetus. He immediately began a campaign
pressuring Abbas to break away from Hamas.
But there is still
more to Israel’s war on Gaza than this. Fearing an intifada that would
unite Palestinians, threaten the PA, and slow down the construction of
illegal settlements, Netanyahu’s war on Gaza means to distract from the
slowly building collective sentiment among Palestinians throughout
Palestine, and among Palestinian citizens in Israel.
is much more alarming for Netanyahu than a political arrangement by
Fatah and Hamas necessitated by regional circumstances. The targeting of
Hamas is an Israeli attempt at challenging the emerging new narrative
that is no longer about Gaza and its siege anymore, but the entirety of
Palestine and its collectives regardless of which side of the Israeli
“separation wall” they live on.
A true Palestinian unity
culminating in a massive popular Intifada is the kind of war Netanyahu
cannot possibly win.
- Ramzy Baroud is the Managing Editor of
Middle East Eye. Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a
media consultant, an author and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com.
His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story
(Pluto Press, London).
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