Wagging the Dog in Gaza: Netanyahu’s Skirmish of Fear (Sternfeld)

Lior Sternfeld writes in a guest column for Informed Comment

Israel has embarked, with its Gaza attack, on the all-too-well-known elections routine. Before the 2009 elections, the defense minister, Ehud Barak, who then led the Labor party, saw his party performing poorly in the national polls. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert needed some public support as well, and they launched operation “Cast Lead.” It was during Hannukah, and the chosen name provoked famous holiday children song, and an awful name of a vastly used material (lead).

With the 2013 elections just months away, Barak sees polls for his now rapidly vanishing party sending him to early retirement, and just like in Hanukkah 2008, Israel decided to break a ceasefire and assassin the Hamas senior military persona, Ahmad Jaberi. Hamas, as expected, responded with firing rockets on Israel’s southern regions, and to the great satisfaction of both Hamas and Israel, a full-scale war is being evolved.

Netanyahu knows his constituency very well. He knows that the way to ensure his victory in the upcoming elections will be by diverting the public discourse from demands of social justice to existential threats imposed on Israel by the bogeyman- Hamas, And the cost of imperiling a third of Israel’s population seems reasonable enough for him. When virtually no opposition seen in miles, Netanyahu cemented his dreadful leadership for the next four years. It is not that Netanyahu faced a serious challenge in the Israeli political arena.

A short time ago Netanyahu’s Likud party merged with Avigdor Lieberman’s “Israel Our House” extreme right party, creating the Knesset’s biggest party. Across from them one should hope to see a vital opposition fighting for the votes of the public, especially against a government that failed to deliver social reforms, contributed to growing sectarianism, invested heavily in the occupied territories, and persecuted African shelter-seeking refugees.

Alas, one would find a line of the alleged opposition party leaders waiting for their turn to pair with Netanyahu after the elections, and struggling only on the seniority in his next cabinet. Shelly Yehimovich, Labor party leader announced last week that blaming the Labor for being a leftist party is misleading at best. The critical reader would probably agree, but for the first time a Labor leader makes it clear that this party poses no alternative. Moreover, after the military operation started, Yehimovich rushed in to congratulate Netanyahu for the operation, and backed up the government in this fight. The only protest from within the Zionist camp was voiced by the small leftist “MERETZ” party, left alone to condemn this escalation.

Israel’s leadership has proven once again that fear production is the best way to secure the public support. It is much easier to disseminate, cheaper and far less demanding than social and economic reforms, and of course, self perpetuating, thus much more sustainable than hope, for say.

Lior Sternfeld is pursuing a Ph.D. in History at the University of Texas, Austin.

10 Responses

  1. It is important to remember that Israel has a long record of exploiting pretexts to commence aggressive action. It is only later that the real causes of the aggression are determined (and integrated into mainstream accounts). Besides the obvious 1956 Suez War, where Israel conspired with France and Britain, consider the following two cases of Israeli invasions of Lebanon:

    (1) “Israel invaded Lebanon on June 5, 1982, following an eleven-month cease-fire with the PLO, which Israel claimed had been broken by the attempted assassination of the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom Shlomo Argov…It made little difference to the Israelis that the assassination had been carried out by a renegade Palestinian group led by the infamous Sabri al-Banna…, a blood foe of the PLO. The invasion gave Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli defense minister, carte blanche to pursue his own dream of destroying the PLO as a political force in the region [thus consolidating Israel’s hold of the Occupied Palestinian Territory] and putting in place a pliant government in Beirut that would become the second Arab state, after Egypt, to enter into a formal peace agreement with Israel.

    (2) “In leaked testimony to the Winograd Committee investigating Israel’s mismanagement of the summer 2006 Lebanon war, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert admitted that the war had been carefully planned at least four months ahead of time…Facts such as that Hezbollah fired no rockets into Israel until after Israel’s savage aerial attacks…had begun, or that Israel had left unresolved for years the bitter issues of Lebanese prisoners of war and the occupation of the Shebaa Farms region, only generate more questions when one considers how easily negotiations could have defused growing tensions.” link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

    • …..AND, even if you put the 67 war, or pretty much any other actions they’ve initiated under the microscope, the pattern becomes quite clear. I would say that your case becomes a whole lot stronger when you cite source documents and facts, rather than analyses which might be seen to have any sort of agenda.

  2. The killing of Ahmed Jabari has been incorrectly identified as the “military chief” of Hamas and the “mastermind” of the Gilad Shalit abduction.

    The military chief of Hamas is Muhammed Deif and has been since 2002. The IDF has failed to assassinate him successfully despite numerous attempts; he reportedly operates in underground bunkers in Gaza and travels freely to Iran. Also, this is about the fifth mastermind Israel claims to be responsible for the abduction of Shalit that it has killed.

    It is election time in Israel!

    The parallells between Gaza and Vietnam are striking. Both have a government that is telling its public how well the war is going using body counts and press releases to deceive the electorate. President Shimon Peres has correctly gone on record as saying that if Hamas could be destroyed it would have occurred long ago.

    Both the military and intelligence chiefs in Israel recommended a prisoner exchange to Olmert in 2006 rather than initiating a military offensive in Gaza that year; he refused it.

    Operation Cast Lead was a strategic failure in that all five military objectives were not met – including the destruction of tunnels between Egypt and Gaza to defeat the blockade. The IDF never controlled all of Gaza and the only positive aspects they could point to were $2.6 billion in property destruction to civilian infrastructure in Gaza and the fact only 13 Israelis died during the action. The war cost the IDF $1 billion to prosecute and Southern Israeli communities sustained significant property damage and injuries to residents from Gazan rockets.

    Gazan leaders have awaited receipt of a “Tel Aviv rocket” capable of hitting Israel’s capital as a deterrent against IDF actions. Iran has reportedly supplied military grade Grad rockets that have struck southern Israel in recent years and the closest any rocket has come to Tel Aviv has reportedly been about 27 kilometers.

  3. Until Israel is interested in peace, Obama’s position is beside the point. There would be other kinds of value in a reevaluation of US policy, but forcing an unwilling Israel to make the changes and sacrifices required to make peace with it’s neighbors (and vice versa) is quite outside the US government’s capabilities.

    • People and nations do what’s in their best interests. Notwithstanding the reality (?) that the US is not capable of standing up to Israel for (*ahem*) domestic political reasons, if it COULD simply deal with the involved parties in an even-handed way it’d make all the difference. OR, failing that, just bow out and let Israel fend for itself.

      IN either scenario, Israel would feel the heat rise progressively as their current military hegemony erodes. They’d be increasingly inclined to cut fair and enduring deals with the Pals and neighboring countries (versus the current deal with Egypt, bought and paid for by the US).

      The downside is that the Arab parties would sense the erosion of Israeli strength and they’d be on increasingly strong negotiating footing. Well, this is a bed Israel has made for itselves, and they’ve still got plenty of posture (with patience and commitment) to reach an enduring peace.

      The problem is that Israel is not motivated, and something serious has to change before peace has any chance.

  4. While this is “normal” behavior for Israel, they appear to have misinterpreted the current feeling around the globe and in particular just how most Americans may react.

    While most of the congress critters are still bought and paid for by Israel, the American public just might react very positively to the Obama administration coming down hard on Israel.

    There is the very real possibility that this will lead to Palestine getting more than 180 votes (out of 193)for recognition in the UNGA, forcing the US to either be on the embarrassing losing side or to abstain.

    In the grand scheme of things, Israel is becoming more and more of a major problem for the US and Obama will probably have to have a severe confrontation with the congress critters to save the US from further damage. I suspect that if Obama frames the discussion correctly the public will back him and the Israeli control of the congress critters will be damaged.

  5. I’ve heard a radio report that Hamas and Israel were in peace negotiations to stop the rocket attacks prior to the assassination, and that event occurred while Hamas was waiting for a reply from Israel. If this is true, Hamas may never agree to peace negotiations considering the consequences of the same.

    Has anyone any more information on this report?

    • The 11/15 edition of the Jerusalem Post quotes Samir Abu Zuhri, a Hamas diplomatic spokesman, that an informal truce had been violated in the killing of Jabari.

      The story is that Israel’s government tried to lull Jabari into the open during a round of peace negotiations for the purpose of exposing him for targeted assassination.

  6. wow
    you’d think israel was the center of the universe
    i can assure you it is not and never will be

    that certain people called ‘dibs’ on this place and
    changed the name and occupied the original inhabitants

    and continues to do injury to them and all of us
    while we sit back and wait for what ? to happen

    there needs to be a reverse emancipation
    every single palestinian should leave that place

    the whole world will receive you with open arms
    and then we will see what those ‘settlers’ got [get]

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