With Gaza behind him, Netanyahu puts Israel’s Palestinians in the crosshairs

With corruption indictments closing in, Netanyahu hopes his scorched earth campaign against Palestinians, whether in Gaza or in Israel, will give Israelis the sense that they live in a state of emergency and cannot afford change.

Mourners attend the funeral of seven members of the Abu Malhous family killed by an Israeli airstrike, during their funeral, Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)
Mourners attend the funeral of seven members of the Abu Malhous family killed by an Israeli airstrike, during their funeral, Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, November 14, 2019. (Hassan Jedi/Flash90)

By the time last week’s fighting was over, sparked by Israel’s assassination of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in Gaza, over than 30 Palestinians were dead.

Among the dead were eight members of the A-Sawarka family in Deir al-Balaa who were killed, the army later acknowledged, by mistake. In the Israeli south, along the Gaza periphery, civilians huddled in bomb shelters as hundreds of rockets rained down on their towns. The center of the country, the densely populated area of greater Tel Aviv that is the country’s economic heart, was paralyzed; schools and basic services shut down under home front orders.

The question is, why did Netanyahu order the assassination — knowing the consequences? The answer might be found in the prime minister’s Twitter account.

One day before the Israeli army assassinated Abu al-Ata, Netanyahu tweeted a clip from the September 29th episode of a political talk show, in which Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi answered in the affirmative when asked if his party would bring down a government led by Netanyahu rival, Benny Gantz, should Israel enter another war against Gaza.

Many mainstream news analysts questioned the timing of last week’s attack on the Gaza Strip, the third paroxysm of violence in the past year. But as soon as the retaliatory rockets incapacitated nearly half the country, even Netanyahu’s political rivals and harshest critics fell in line. The Gaza consensus, after all, is wide enough to cozily fit the majority of elected officials from the Zionist left to the extreme right. Even in Meretz, the most left-wing party on the Zionist political spectrum, only few were willing to publicly question whether the extrajudicial killing of Abu al-Ata was worth the cost in human life, or whether assassinating Palestinian leaders can even be considered a short-term solution.

On Saturday night, just two days after the ceasefire went into effect, Netanyahu shifted his wrath from Islamic Jihad to Benny Gantz, the Blue and White party leader, and the Joint List. In an emergency meeting with Likud lawmakers, Netanyahu reportedly called the possibility of an Arab-backed minority government an “emergency that is unprecedented in the history of the State of Israel… It’s a historic danger to Israel’s security. It will gravely hurt the security of Israel.”

Benny Gantz is rumored to be seeking the Joint List’s support for a minority coalition that falls short of the 61 seats required for a majority. If the Joint List agrees, this would allow Gantz to preside over a coalition that has the support of the Arab parties from the outside, without breaching the taboo — in place since Israel’s founding — of bringing them into the government. Gantz has until Wednesday to secure a coalition.

Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi arrives for a meeting with party members at the Knesset on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi arrives for a meeting with party members at the Knesset on September 22, 2019. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Netanyahu amplified his vitriol on Twitter, writing: “A minority government that is dependent on the Arab parties who want to put our soldiers on trial as ‘war criminals’ = a danger to the State of Israel and a slap in the face of IDF soldiers.’” Likud will hold an emergency rally on Sunday in Tel Aviv to protest “a minority government supported by the Arab parties.” In the wake of Netanyahu’s remarks, Joint List leader Ayman Odeh asked the Knesset Guard for extra security after a photo of him in Islamic Jihad garb was circulated online.

Netanyahu is desperate to stay in power and out of jail. In order to do so, he is carrying out a scorched earth policy to make Israelis feel that they live in a state of emergency and cannot afford change — let alone change that brings Palestinian citizens — whom he consistently identifies as the enemy, into the government.

With corruption indictments closing in on him, Netanyahu is campaigning against Palestinians, whether they are Gaza residents or citizens of Israel. A unity government with Gantz is a better option than fighting a protracted legal battle while sitting in the opposition — with Blue and White receiving the support of his enemies. His campaign in Gaza and his raging against the Joint List are both expressions of a single fear: that he may soon find himself in prison.

His pressure on Blue and White strikes at the Achilles heel of Israel’s center-left. Without Israel’s Palestinian citizens, who are a full fifth of the country’s population, the center-left cannot form a government and topple Netanyahu. With the support of the Joint List, Gantz’s minority government might only last until the next time Israel feels the need to bomb Gaza into temporary submission.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at a Knesset ceremony marking six years since the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, November 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz at a Knesset ceremony marking six years since the death of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, November 4, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

None of this, however, is inevitable – it is merely a reflection of the larger quandary that Israel’s centrist and left-wing Zionist parties find themselves in. The decision to hold millions of people under siege is a deliberate policy that keeps Gazans starved and powerless. Meanwhile, the decision to turn Palestinian members of Knesset — and in turn Israel’s Palestinian citizens — into enemies of the state, is one made by people who have a vested interest in subjugating Israel’s non-Jewish population.

As long as Netanyahu’s opponents continue buying into the notion that the siege on Gaza is preordained, as long as they cannot decide whether to form a real alliance with the Palestinians or with those who seek to dispossess them, there will never be a true, long-term alternative to everything Israel’s longest-serving prime minister represents.

17 responses to “With Gaza behind him, Netanyahu puts Israel’s Palestinians in the crosshairs”

  1. Lewis from Afula says:

    Israel needs to make Gaza look like Danzig in 1945.
    In other words, turn it into a huge pile of rubble with no arabs living there.

      • Lewis from Afula says:

        No, Bruce.
        You see the punishment has to fit the crime.
        The crime of “fakestinyanism” is to fire katashu rockets at Israeli border towns causing physical damages to walls, homes, roofs, factories, greenhouses etc etc. In these circumstances, the best solution is to bomb Gaza back to rubble until there is no living thing left there.
        Then, there will be peace.

    • Ben says:

      This would be like a Russian far right extremist urging Stalin to turn occupied East Berlin “into a huge pile of rubble with no Germans living there.” Or occupied Warsaw, Budapest, etc. “…no Poles living there, no Hungarians living there.” It is also not unlike a German or a Pole urging the German Waffen SS to turn the Warsaw Ghetto “into a huge pile of rubble with no Jews living there.”

      I don’t think Lewis is unrepresentative, however; he’s just willing to publish his thoughts unexpurgated. Behold the Israeli far right in all its extremely sick, neo-fascist reality, people. And yet, these same people will tell you that peacefully boycotting settlement products is a horrifying, mind-boggling, outrage of monumental earth-shattering proportions.

    • Carmen says:

      @ LFA – Quit trying so hard; you’re in no danger of appearing the least bit sympathetic. Or human.

  2. Rivka Koen says:

    Dear, Trump, Netanyahu, and Gantz: People’s lives aren’t props, you disgusting excuses for human beings. You shouldn’t even be allowed in society, let alone commanding armies.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Wasn’t it this very publication that showed polls that found that the overwhelming majority of Israeli arabs do NOT identify as palestinians?

    Curious why you feel compelled to identify them as something they are not…?

    Agenda, much?

    • Ben says:

      In the hands of the typical smug Israeli right winger (you wouldn’t be one of them would you, because you’re what?, an Amazing Agenda-Free Person?) “Israeli Arab” becomes a vaguely condescending, belittling, colonialist appellation, as in “these Arabs are our Arabs.” (The nation state law codifies this dynamic.)

      Since when did +972 Magazine ever say it did not have an agenda? Read about its agenda here:

      Note that you, crusader against agendas, bluntly introduce your own agenda by decreeing that because of some poll question percentages you read somewhere but do not contextualize, Palestinian identity simply doesn’t exist.

      Note also your interesting slip in taking care to capitalize “Israel” but not “arabs” or “palestinians.”

      On a deeper level, your smug reprimand on agendas seems to me a back door way of inserting “two sides-ism,” the phony idea that the occupation is a matter of two equal sides who just disagree and so +972 Magazine’s “agenda” is somehow neatly counterbalanced and neutralized by a pro-occupation “agenda” on the other side, and the occupation is “normal.” Meaning the occupation will just have to continue for another leisurely 50 years because “there are two sides to every issue, don’t you know, and we, the occupier, have time; situation normal.”

      • Carmen says:

        That smugness, the ‘our Arabs’ overseer talk, is a page out of the post reconstruction, Jim Crow american south as in ‘our negroes were happy until’ outside influences, infiltrators, foreigners, anti-miscegenation, n****r loving communists, jews, leftists, whatever was going round at the time to call people who weren’t pro-klan, pro-white supremacy. Alot of the same adjectives used then have been used on these very pages, weird part though, these words have been used by jews against other jews as well as palestinians. The more things change, the more they stay the same, unfortunately for humanity.

        • Lewis from Afula says:

          Yes, I agree with Carmen.
          Under Ottoman rule, the Jews were classed as Dhimmis and had a lower status than Muslim Arabs. They had to pay a special tax, may not ride a horse, cannot build majestic synagogues etc. Hence, the status differential was quite close to the Jim Crow South.
          Good point, Carmen.

      • Lewis from Afula says:

        According to Ben, I am smug, condescending and colonialist for calling myself an Israeli Jew.
        Either that or the Comrade employs different adjectives for different types of Israeli citizens.
        Whose the racist now ?

        • Rivka Koen says:

          The fictitious person making your made-up arguments that no one said clearly absolves you of all racism by comparison. You’re in the clear.

        • Ben says:

          I was just gonna say “I’ll let this complete nonsense by Lewis speak for itself,” but Rivka said it better.

    • Ben says:

      Regarding Palestinian identity issues:

      “In a way, Netanyahu’s fantasies are even more egregious. They lack any basis of actual injury by Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, historical or present. This group is never involved in organizational terror, and individual incidents are exceedingly rare. The community has no secessionist tendencies, has participated in the Israeli political process for decades, and repeatedly states its desire for greater political, civil, and economic integration. The one demand that challenges Israeli Jews is symbolic: preservation of their battered Palestinian identity. The great political demand associated with that identity is their call to release Palestinians in the territories from a five-decade military occupation and allow their independence.
      Turning Palestinian-Arab citizens into an existential threat of real destruction is a fabrication at the level of a blood libel. That’s something Jews should understand.”