Losing the Plot: Israel's Premier to Face New Gaza Reality - Disastrous War
11 October 2014
By Ramzy Baroud
Netanyahu's war-turned-genocide in Gaza has backfired
badly - his strategy has helped resurrect Hamas, the
very movement he tried desperately to crush
Aside from being a major military setback, Israel's
war on Gaza has also disoriented the policies of Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu like never before. Since
the announcement of a ceasefire on 26 August, his
statements appear erratic and particularly uncertain,
an expected outcome of the Gaza war.
Since his first term as a prime minister (1996-99),
Netanyahu has showed particular savviness at
fashioning political and military events to neatly
suit his declared policies. He fabricated imminent
threats that were neither imminent nor threats, for
example, Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass
destruction. Later, he took on Iran.
He created too many conditions and laid numerous
obstacles for peace settlements to ever be realised.
The late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, laboured
for years to meet Israel's conditions, and failed.
Abbas has taken the same futile road. But Netanyahu's
conditions are specifically designed to be
For example, Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian
leadership must accept Israel's right to exist as a
Jewish state, despite the fact that millions of
Palestinian Muslims and Christians share that land,
which has for centuries constituted the land of
historic Palestine. Signing off the rights of non-Jews
is not only undemocratic, but also tantamount to
clearing the way for another campaign of ethnic
cleansing of Palestinians.
But in actuality, none of this truly matters to
Netanyahu. For him, protracted "peace talks" are a
smokescreen for his illegal settlement construction
project, which remains as ravenous as ever. He is
confiscating occupied Palestinian land with impunity,
while insisting that Israel's intentions have always
been, and remain peaceful.
For nearly two decades, Netanyahu negotiated his
political survival based on that very strategy,
skilfully, although underhandedly playing on existing
fears and engineering security threats. For him, Hamas,
Hezbollah, the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, the
Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, Syria and so on, are
essentially one and the same. Of course, they are not,
and he knows it well.
If one skims through his speeches and media interviews
throughout the years, one can easily spot the oddly
fashioned discourse. No threat, however, was as
consistently exaggerated and misleadingly presented as
that of Hamas. Whenever the Iran discourse grew too
redundant and unconvincing, and when Hezbollah
(especially in the last three years) grew irrelevant,
he infused Hamas. Many in the media willingly or out
of sheer ignorance, played into Netanyahu's hand,
presenting the Palestinian political movement with a
military wing as a menace that has "sworn" to destroy
That demonisation of Palestinians was an essential
component in Israel's military strategies throughout
the years, starting with the fidayeen, then the
socialists, the PLO and so on. It made the political
price for war relatively easy. And, for Israel, war is
a primary pillar of their policies in the region,
where land is confiscated, Israel's enemies are
reminded of their place, and "taught a lesson"
whenever such a lesson is needed.
War for Israel is also important as a tool to distract
from political trouble at home, an under-performing
economy or whatever else. Netanyahu's and Israel's
wars on Gaza in recent years often served as that
distraction from one failed policy or another. Bombing
Gaza was quite a convenient and rarely costly strategy
to boost the credential of Israeli politicians. Ariel
Sharon mastered that art, as others did before him,
including Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and of
course, Netanyahu himself.
One could argue that Israel's recent war on Gaza,
code-named Operation Protective Edge, which began this
year on 7 July, would have taken place even if
Israel's prime minister was someone other than
Netanyahu. All signs were in place that made the
Israeli military move impending. Rival Palestinian
factions, Hamas and Fatah, reached a unity agreement,
despite strong Israeli rejection. Alone, that would
have been a compelling reason for Israel to feel the
need to squash Hamas and end the need for unity in the
first place. But more importantly, the mood in the
West Bank was begging for change. Protests and rallies
were reported throughout the West Bank in June,
despite Israeli attempts to crush them, with the help
of the goons of the US-funded and trained PA security.
Indeed, that was more important than the unity deal
itself. Palestinians were being mobilised outside the
fractured political landscape that has for years
existed between Hamas and Fatah. Taking the focus back
to Gaza, where Netanyahu was leading a supposed war to
fight terrorism, extremism and Israel's arch enemies
who are "sworn to the destruction of the Jewish state"
seemed, from Israel's Machiavellian logic, like a good
In fact, Netanyahu succeeded, at least temporarily, to
distract from the looming confrontation in the West
Bank. But what he expected was a relatively easy
battle. Hamas and other resistance groups were
arguably weakened due to the advent of the so-called
Arab Spring. They were partly disowned by Iran and
entirely disowned by Syria, which is busy fighting its
own civil war. Moreover, the removal of the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt left Hamas politically frail and
exposed. In fact, it was such vulnerability that
pushed Hamas to a unity deal with Mahmoud Abbas, who,
according to the deal, maintained a degree of
dominance over all Palestinian factions, including
Hamas itself. Just before the war, a June public
opinion poll conducted by the Palestinian Centre for
Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) showed that PA
President Mahmoud Abbas was winning the trust of 53
percent of Palestinians, while Hamas' Gaza leader
Ismail Haniyeh received the support of 41 percent.
Netanyahu's war was the Israeli leadership's attempt
at capitalising on Hamas's purported decline. But the
war was a disaster and it failed miserably. It killed
more than 2,150 Palestinians and wounded over 11,000
more. The Israeli army was held back by a unified
Palestinian resistance front. It lost 64 soldiers and
hundreds more were injured. It cost the Israeli
economy millions. The war to end Hamas gave birth to
the strongest Palestinian resistance front ever.
When the war ended on 26 August, Netanyahu, the keen
politician who insisted on defining the political
discourse of any war or major political event, simply
disappeared. Two days later, he held a press
conference in which he declared that Israel had "won".
But both Israelis and Palestinians disagreed.
According to a poll conducted shortly after the
ceasefire announcement and reported in the Israeli
Jerusalem Post, 54 percent of Israelis believe they
lost the war.
On the other hand, numbers among Palestinians have
dramatically shifted as well. According to PCPSR, 61
percent of Palestinians would now vote for Haniyeh, a
huge climb from few weeks earlier; 94 percent were
satisfied with the resistance military performance;
and, more astoundingly, 79 percent said that
Palestinian resistance had "won" the conflict.
Netanyahu's war-turned-genocide backfired beyond
anyone's expectations. He helped resurrect the very
movement he tried to crush. And now he is desperately
back attempting to reconstruct the lost political
discourse, associating Hamas to vile terrorists, and
absurdly presenting Israel as a victim, just as
Palestinians finished burying thousands of their dead.
This time, however, few seem to believe him.
- Ramzy Baroud is a PhD scholar in People's History
at the University of Exeter. He 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