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A new war awaits Netanyahu: the Israelis
Boshko Jakshiç - Politika newspaper
Even up to 80 percent of Israeli Jews think that the prime minister should publicly accept responsibility, as do 69 percent of members of his conservative Likud party.
October 7, 2023, will remain etched in the historical memory of the Jews as the day when, exactly half a century after the Yom Kippur War, it happened again that Israel was entirely caught by surprise and not ready to respond to the armed attack.
Palestinian Hamas debunked the myth of the invincibility of the Israeli army and security services as the best in the world. What had happened that Israel was caught so unprepared that morning? Why did the surveillance system in and around Gaza not send warnings that could have saved many lives? How did it come about that no one in Israel knew anything about the plan for the mass attack, the murders, the kidnapping of hostages, an action that Hamas had been working on for a year?
The world is divided. Israel and those who support it point the finger at Hamas, whose direct responsibility for the horrific attacks and the killing of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, is beyond doubt. Those sympathetic to the Palestinians see the tragedy as the inevitable result of decades of occupation, repression, and violations of fundamental Palestinian rights and demand accountability for the excessive use of force in Gaza, killing 5,800 people and expelling a million more. As well as the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the food, water, fuel, and medicine blockade.
No one denies Israel the right to defend its people, but it is bound to respect the jus in bello, the right to war, which applies to both the aggressor and the defender. Netanyahu never respects the laws except those he approves. Neither does Hamas.
The Israelis demand responsibility for all those who, during the last two decades, have participated in the creation of the concept of security. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi, Director of the Shin Bet civilian security service Ronen Bar, Chief of Military Security Aharon Haliva, Air Force Commander Tomer Bar, Ground Forces Commander Rafi Milo all stated almost unanimously: we didn't make it. "We are here precisely because I must tell you I am sorry. I'm sorry we couldn't save you," declared former Chief of Staff and former Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, the head of the opposition who has joined the new cabinet, speaking at the Kfar Azza kibbutz, where Hamas carried out a massacre.
Benjamin Netanyahu has led Israel as prime minister for the past fifteen years. As a senior judge of foreign and security policy, he is also the father of the strategy of strengthening Hamas to weaken the power of the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas. It has tried, to the extent that Israeli public opinion has accepted, to destroy the two rival Palestinian wings: Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza. In the end, he underestimated the offensive capabilities of Hamas but did not utter a word or apologize.
"Netanyahu is incapable of showing human feelings because he is not human. According to his concept, leaders of his rank do not ask for forgiveness. Did Japanese Emperor Hirohito ever apologize? Have the Russian tsars apologized? Have Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin ever apologized?" - writes the well-known commentator of the "Haaretz" newspaper, Josi Verter.
To expect that Netanyahu will apologize to the world at a time when he is not doing this for his public opinion is futile. The unconditional support he received from American President Joe Biden will convince him that he has no reason to apologize, but even support has its limits. Biden is not in his second term. As he calls for $14 billion in emergency aid to Israel, he should recall George HW Bush, who in 1991 had the support of 90 percent of Americans for the Gulf War but was defeated by Bill Clinton a year later when Americans began to worry about the recession. Half of the Democrats are ready to criticize Biden in case of "excessive" support, while the Republicans are only calculating.
In the first hours after the invasion of the western Negev and the villages and kibbutzim from the Israeli side of the border with the Gaza Strip, many asked the question: where are the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)? They were in the West Bank protecting the colonists in the occupied lands or - at home. The surprise was complete. Attack on Shabbat and the holiday of Shimhat Thoras, just like in 1973 when the Egyptians attacked Jewish villages along the shores of the Suez Canal on the holiday of Yom Kippur.
Where were the members of the cabinet and the prime minister? On tourist trips or posting on Twitter. Netanyahu was on vacation in a luxury hotel. Hamas attacked at 6:30 a.m. Netanyahu's motorcade left Caesarea at 8:00 a.m. It appeared on TV four hours later.
The worst fears of many Israelis who had been protesting for weeks against the prime minister's plan to subordinate the judiciary and bring it under the control of the executive branch were confirmed. They thought that the democratic state was being destroyed right before their eyes and, with it, the institutions. Netanyahu considered a section of the military and security establishment who opposed his controversial reform to be enemies.
Hamas struck at the foundations of a state that was faltering. Even though the massacres of civilians have taken a heavy toll on the Palestinians, which they will pay for in the days to come, the Islamist group has dealt Israel a blow perhaps more significant than that of 1973.
The October 2023 failure calls for an investigation into liability. It will not be enough to replace the Chief of Staff, the head of military security, the leader of the civil service, or even the commander of the Southern Command. It was the turn of the prime minister and members of his ultra-conservative government, which was more interested in normalizing relations with the Arabs without solving the Palestinian issue and ignoring their rights.
While faced with three court proceedings for corruption, he fights for his political future; Netanyahu is convinced that he will also emerge unscathed from this crisis. That he will pass the responsibility to the security services. "I hear people saying apologize, take responsibility, apologize. For what?" declares the Prime Minister's Praetorian, Minister of Communications Shlomo Karhi.
Many in Israel do not think so. Even up to 80 percent of Israeli Jews believe that the prime minister should publicly accept responsibility, as do 69 percent of members of his conservative Likud party, Maariv newspaper polls show.
The prime minister thinks that he will consolidate his position and thus fulfill the promises given when declaring war on the "annihilation" of Hamas. The price of "annihilation" can be terrifying: it is impossible to distinguish civilian targets from combat ones due to the dense population of the territory, the network of Hamas tunnels that run under residential and business buildings, and the dispersion of militants throughout these buildings.
Many think that everything will end as in previous wars in Gaza: both sides will celebrate victory.
Translated by: Jelal Fejza