The United Auto Workers union’s Shawn Fain speaks at a labor protest against the Gaza War. It’s a big deal in Michigan, where the UAW wields great influence within the state’s Democratic Party. From an unattributed photo published on Twitter/X. Meanwhile in Israel, from the first day the current Netanyahu-led coalition government was formed, it was preoccupied with its corrupt domestic agenda and perilously intensified the conflict with the Palestinians, and prompted Hamas to commit the unfathomable savage butchery of 1,200 Israelis.
The current Netanyahu-led government was born in sin
by Alon Ben-Meir
The unspeakable savagery that Hamas committed against innocent Israelis allowed the Israeli public, for the time being, to coalesce around and support the government’s war efforts against Hamas. But the ramifications of this government’s twisted vision and treacherous policies which provided Hamas with an opening to commit its unfathomable butchery will have a lasting and destructive impact on Israel, for which the government, and especially Prime Minister Netanyahu, must pay the price.
This government came to power with a specific revolutionary agenda that included subordinating the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, to the whims of elected officials, and ushering in an authoritarian regime. In addition, the government was further focused on annexing much of the West Bank and denying the Palestinians a chance to ever establish a state of their own.
The government operated like the mafia, with the most dangerous and power-hungry boss, Netanyahu, sitting at the helm, giving a free hand to his henchmen to do as they please. Skirting responsibility, looting public funds, providing preferential treatment to loyalists, family, and friends, and harassing the press, along with systematic cheating and lying, became the operational mantra of this mischievous and most immoral government in Israel’s history.
Indeed, regardless of when and how the Israel-Hamas war ends, the polarization among the Israelis in connection with the Palestinians will only intensify and expose the institutional decadence of a government that may well bring the country to the threshold of unprecedented civil strife, if not war. Israel will not recover unless this government is ousted, and Netanyahu, in particular— “Mr. Security,” under whose watch Hamas’ massacre occurred—faces his day of judgment in both the courts of law and public opinion and is thrown out of office with indignity and disgrace, which he so richly deserves.
Intensifying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
Netanyahu owns the breakdown of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is now spinning out of control. Over the past 14 out of 15 years, he pushed for building new, and expanding and/or legalizing illegal settlements in the West Bank. He appointed two incompetent, unfit, and blood-thirsty ministers, Itamar Ben-Gvir (National Security) and Bezalel Smotrich (Finance, also in charge of civilian affairs in the West Bank), who made no secret of their disdain and outright hostility toward the Palestinians and their national aspirations.
They encourage the settlers to rampage through Palestinian villages and destroy their farmland, forcing thousands to flee from their land while killing scores under the watchful eyes of Israel’s security forces, acting as a proxy for the government. Smotrich has generously provided funds to the settlers to continue with their “holy mission” and become the de facto operatives of the government and its menacing design in the West Bank. The year 2023 has, thus far, been the most violent year in the West Bank since the second Intifada in 2000, with more than 450 Palestinians killed as of this writing.
How that might prevent reaching a peace agreement with the Palestinians and undermine Israel’s national security is of no concern to the right-wing Israeli extremists. They view the war against Hamas as if it were a fulfillment of their messianic dream to reclaim Israel’s biblical land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea by substantially reducing, if not ridding, the West Bank and Gaza of its Palestinian population altogether.
To buttress the Jewish presence in the West Bank and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu pursued the policy of divide and conquer by weakening the Palestinian Authority and bolstering Hamas’s hold on Gaza. Netanyahu basked in the illusion that he had a good handle on Hamas and that he could maintain the status quo—the occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza indefinitely—while normalizing relations with many more Arab states. For the past 14 years under Netanyahu’s leadership, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached its nadir, and in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war, it has now reached a point of no return to the status quo ante.
Over the years, Netanyahu convinced himself and the public that the Palestinians represent an existential threat to Israel and only sustained brutal occupation will keep them at bay. Only a fool would subscribe to this twisted logic because every time another Palestinian is killed or a house demolished, at least one more Palestinian militant is born, whose life mission becomes revenge and retribution against the enemy that has inflicted so much pain and suffering on them and their loved ones.
Under his corrupt reign, Netanyahu was sowing the seeds of hatred and resistance between Israelis and Palestinians because he needed a perpetual enemy to justify the continuing occupation and the building of settlements to prevent the Palestinians from ever establishing a state of their own.
Hamas’ unfathomable savagery offered nothing but the harshest awakening imaginable for every Israeli. It demonstrated the sheer bankruptcy of Netanyahu’s strategy in dealing with the Palestinians and how much worse and perilous the conflict has become under his watch.
The question is, when will the Israelis wake up and say enough is enough? When will they realize that the Palestinians are there to stay, that they will not be beleaguered indefinitely, that they will not succumb to inhumanity and cruelty, that they will violently resist and sacrifice themselves because they have little left to lose, that they have a legitimate right to a state of their own, without which Israel will not know a day of peace?
The occupation not only defies Israel’s democracy but poses the greatest peril to Israel’s security and survival as a Jewish and democratic state. Yes, I blame Netanyahu and his culprits for shattering the prospect of peace and putting Israel at an ominous crossroads, racing downhill toward the abyss.
Whereas the Israelis poured into the streets by the hundreds of thousands every week for nearly six months to protest against Netanyahu’s menacing “judiciary reforms,” which was necessary because Israel’s democracy was on the line, they should now pour into the streets with the same tenacity, vigor, and numbers and demand an end to the brutal occupation. And given the recent developments, this government should not linger another day so that Israel can instead move toward a government that is going to think in terms of an endgame solution to the war.
The tragic war against Hamas will come to an end sooner or later. The war, however, made it clear that there would not be a return to the status quo ante and that ending the conflict permanently would require dissolving the Netanyahu government, which was born in sin, and resuming the peace process with a clear vision and determination to reach a peace agreement based on a two-state solution.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.
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