Editorial: Netanyahu’s war

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 25 Jun 2024

While President Joe Biden and top American officials continue to blame Hamas for the failure to reach a ceasefire deal in Gaza, in statements on Sunday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left no doubt as to who is responsible for the continuation of the Israeli genocide in the Occupied Strip.


In his first interview with a local channel since Israel launched its war on the Palestinians nearly nine months ago, Netanyahu said that Israel was prepared to pause fighting in Gaza only temporarily in exchange for the return of a number of hostages held by Hamas. He insisted the war will not end until the terror group is destroyed.

“No. I’m not prepared to end the war and leave Hamas standing. I am prepared to do a partial deal, that’s no secret, that would return some of the people to us,” he told Israel’s right wing Channel 14. He added, “We are obligated to continue the fighting after a pause in order to complete our goal of destroying Hamas… I’m not prepared to give up on that.”

Dealing another serious blow to any serious negotiations, Netanyahu said it was “clear” that Israel will maintain “military control [in Gaza] in the foreseeable future.”

Hamas leaders have stated since the start of the negotiations mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States months ago that they will not release all Israeli hostages held by the group in Gaza until they receive binding assurances that Israel will permanently stop its aggression, which led to the death of nearly 38,000 and the injury of close to 100,000 people so far, and withdraw all its occupation troops.

Those terms constituted the core of the plan laid out by President Biden in late May, describing it as an “Israeli plan” that gained the approval of the Israeli prime minister. Although the term “permanent ceasefire” was not used then, the proposal stated clearly that the first, transitional stage of the truce should lead to a second stage of “permanent end of hostilities,” and “sustained calm.” The United Nations Security Council resolution presented by the United States and approved a few weeks ago by 14 members also stated that the temporary ceasefire agreed on for six weeks in the first stage would be extended as long as indirect negotiations continued between the two sides on the terms of the second stage, which would include the withdrawal of all occupation troops in Gaza as well as the release of the remaining Israeli hostages, including male officers and soldiers.

By stating that he was only ready to accept a partial, temporary deal after which the occupation army would resume its slaughter of the Palestinian people, and that Israel will maintain its occupation of Gaza for the foreseeable future, Netanyahu is openly and candidly rejecting the Biden plan as well as the UN Security Council resolution. Moreover, with such conditions, Hamas has no incentive to reach an agreement, knowing in advance that after a six-week pause in fighting, the Israeli occupation army will resume its aggression and maintain the occupation of Gaza.

Former Israeli war cabinet member, Gadi Eisenkot, said Monday that Netanyahu’s comments contradicted decisions made by the war cabinet. “As someone who sat in the cabinet, there were only two options: A full deal all at once, or a comprehensive deal in three stages. The cabinet voted unanimously on this, and therefore Netanyahu’s statement about a ‘partial deal’ is contrary to the war cabinet’s decisions.”

Israel’s daily Haaretz also quoted Israeli sources involved in ceasefire negotiations as saying, “Netanyahu clarified today that he is not interested in the release of all the hostages — the demand he himself is making of Hamas — and is not prepared to provide the goods that Hamas is demanding.” One of these sources was quoted as saying: “In such a situation, [Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya] Sinwar has no motivation to advance a deal,” An Israeli official cited by the Walla news site issued similar criticism, saying, “Netanyahu’s comments this evening caused tremendous damage to the chances for reaching a deal.”

To make matters worse, Netanyahu not only confirmed his original intentions never to end the war in Gaza, but also heightened tensions by stating that the high intensity stage of fighting in Gaza would end soon, not to save Palestinian lives but to prepare for a possible war on Lebanon.

We don’t need strategic or military experts to conclude that a new Israeli war front against Lebanon would mean nothing less than a doomsday scenario that would open up several other war fronts. That’s certainly not a development the world could withstand, and there needs to be immediate international action to bring an end to the reckless policies of the current Israeli premier and those of his ministers who are members of groups the US State Department lists as “terrorist” and extremist.

Ending the war in Gaza would be the first major step towards calming all other volatile fronts in the region, including Lebanon, Yemen, and Iraq, instead of seeking more and more wars only to satisfy the racist, extremist delusions of the current Israeli government.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 27 June, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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