Netanyahu bets everything on the armed solution in Gaza | International

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Security remains the main obsession of Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The solution to all evils. Nothing has changed after the attack on October 7, the day the supposed fortress he had built around Gaza collapsed under the Hamas attack like a house of cards. More than a month later, with thousands of deaths on the table (more than 11,000 in the Strip and about 1,200 on the Israeli side), Gaza devastated and a war with an uncertain end, Netanyahu continues to bet everything on security and nothing more than to safety. Behind them, both in Israel and abroad, more and more voices are being heard that assure that military hand exclusively the Strip will not be pacified. Nor did he succeed in the previous battles fought in the Palestinian enclave after the departure of troops and settlers in 2005. The experts consulted predict that the prime minister will not survive the crisis opened by the Hamas attack in office.

“You cannot fight an ideology with weapons. "We must confront the ideology of Hamas with a better ideology and the best ideology to present to the Palestinians is that they can live for Palestine, not just die for Palestine," warns Gershon Baskin, columnist and peace activist. known for having negotiated with Hamas in previous crises. Faced with that, and defending a discourse in a clear minority in Israel, he assures during an interview at his home in Jerusalem: “Palestine has to be a reality. “The idea of ​​Palestinian independence, liberation and the end of Israeli occupation has to come to life to replace the ideology of death.”

Israel insists on continuing to control the security of Gaza after the war, Netanyahu said for the last time on Friday, although he rules out keeping the Strip occupied. That means having “freedom of action” with “air operations” or “small incursions” on the ground to stop Hamas or another similar organization, says Ofer Shelah, former parliamentarian for the centrist party Yesh Atid and analyst at the Institute for the National Security Study (INSS). But, at the same time, Israel shows no signs of accepting that the institutional vacuum left by Hamas, in the government of the Strip since 2007, will be filled, at least in part, by the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), as the United States suggests. . The day after, which is so worrying in the international sphere, is as if it did not exist for the Israeli Executive, except for the ultranationalists with messianic dreams who demand to take over the Palestinian enclave.

For the moment, the center of attention is the battle for Gaza City, “one of the most fortified places in history,” former general Giora Eiland says by phone, where the Israeli army has to face two phenomena. On the one hand, Hamas's 20,000 to 25,000 highly committed militants, its sophisticated tunnel system, and Iranian technology. On the other hand, to the “loyal” support that, according to him, the local population and those responsible for the Administration give them.

Eiland, like the Israeli military commanders, insists that the militants find support even in hospitals. And that is precisely where, in the last few hours, Israel is trying to gain positions with constant attacks, according to Palestinian health and humanitarian sources. The former general explains that the main health center in the Strip, the Al Shifa hospital in the capital, in addition to hosting patients and citizens taking refuge from the attacks, maintains a Hamas command center under its facilities, which is why "we must destroy that area.” Although he assures that it is not what they are looking for, this argument leads him to justify the high number of civilians who are dying despite the widespread criticism that Israel receives for what are considered war crimes such as the attack by the Islamists on October 7. . “I don't think Israel can do anything to stop it,” he says, “unless the Hamas leaders decide to surrender, which doesn't seem likely to happen at the moment.”

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Future plans

Gershon Baskin highlights that Netanyahu and his Cabinet, which he believes will be “expelled” after the war, have no plans for afterward. Neither Shelah nor Eiland see the prime minister in his position after the race either. The future without Hamas in power is something that others have begun to raise, including some Palestinians, including the president of the ANP himself, Mahmoud Abbas. In this sense, Baskin suggests, under the mandate of the UN Security Council, a multinational Arab force with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Emirates, but with the ANP security forces at the forefront to avoid the feeling of a “new occupation”. It would be, he adds, a “technocratic Administration” that leads to a new Palestinian Government and learning from the “mistakes of Oslo” to guarantee the two-state solution.

Former parliamentarian Shelah assumes that the presence of international organizations and some type of coalition or alliance of Middle Eastern countries will be necessary to oversee the reconstruction of Gaza. There, he explains, the ANP should participate in some way, which hopes “to recover in Gaza, although that will take years,” but in no case does Hamas. “The Israeli dilemma is enormous,” thinks Mahmoud Muna, bookseller responsible for the Educational Bookshop and a Palestinian from Jerusalem, regarding the lack of ideas for the future. He predicts that whatever solution is proposed will be good or bad depending on whether Israel accepts it. “And what Israel accepts will not be good for Gaza. I don't see the world forcing a solution that Israel doesn't want,” he concludes pessimistically.

The scenario drawn for the Palestinian enclave by former general Giora Eiland has three phases. On the one hand, the current war, lasting about six weeks or more; a second, which must lead an international operational force to assist the Gazans with a European or Arab and Palestinian presence; and the third that must establish the agreement that allows the designs of the territory to be governed. For the moment, he points out, the "most urgent" thing is to try to free the hostages, even if the price that has to be paid is to free a few hundred Palestinian prisoners and several days, three or four, of a ceasefire that Hamas is seeking. . But, the former general adds, neither Israel nor Hamas should be in charge of Gaza, although the troops must take measures in the event that any "terrorist threat" is generated by that or another armed group.

Until a few days ago, former negotiator Baskin had maintained a direct line with the leadership of the Islamic movement. He already negotiated with them the release in 2011 after more than five years held in Gaza of the soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for more than a thousand Palestinian prisoners. Among them was the current head of Hamas in Gaza, Yahia Sinwar, one of the men most wanted by Israel. On November 1, Baskin sent a letter, which he also made public, to Ghazi Hamad, one of the leaders of the militia, to end almost two decades of relationship, more than a thousand conversations and four face-to-face meetings. . In the letter he states that he is “evil” without “humanity.” Hamad has boasted about the October 7 attack and insisted that Israel should not exist, echoing one of the pillars of Hamas.

Israel now faces not one, but more than 240 hostages held by the enemy in Gaza. “The only way to save them all is through an agreement with Hamas. But the agreement with Hamas, which calls for the release of all Palestinian prisoners, some 7,000, is unacceptable to Israel. (…) It is also contradictory to the final objective of the war, which is to dismantle Hamas,” acknowledges the former negotiator, who has not yet ruled out a pact that would allow children, women and the elderly to be released. He assures, during an interview on Friday, that he knows first-hand that it was brewing until three days ago, with Egypt taking part in the contacts and with the Islamists closing the list of kidnapped people to be released, which would not include military women. . But the Islamists' demand for a ceasefire was not accepted. And now, he comments, although he hints at the negotiations underway in Qatar, “Israel is not going to accept a ceasefire in exchange for the release of 10 or 15 hostages.”

Former parliamentarian Shelah believes that the fate of the hostages depends on Yahia Sinwar. A pause of several days would be possible, at least, to free some, “but that should not become the end of the war.” “Hamas would win if it manages to stop the war using the hostages,” he concludes.

Baskin, for his part, believes that Israel underestimated Hamas' current capacity and thought that the iron dome anti-aircraft system was enough to stop 90% of its missiles, but they evolved, the tunnels arrived and the October 7 assault arrived. to a security fence that had cost 1 billion dollars. All of this will have to be analyzed and monitored after the war, as even the Prime Minister himself recognizes.

“Netanyahu has managed to eliminate the Palestinian issue not only from the Israeli agenda, but from the international community (…) Why does Spain support the two-state solution and only recognize one of them?” asks former negotiator Baskin. In any case, he himself places the blame on Israelis and also on Palestinians because they have not known how to follow Israel's narrative or present a serious peace plan. “We knew of the hypocrisy of the United States, but we trusted Europe,” laments bookseller Mahmoud Muna. Spain, in any case, is not one of those that comes out worse off from his diatribe. “We Palestinians are alone,” he adds, also referring to the abandonment of the Arab countries, whose oil wealth does not prevent the fuel crisis in Gaza.

In an interview given in 2015 to the newspaper Haaretza few months after the last war in Gaza, Ofer Shelah somehow predicted what is happening in 2023. Israel had failed due to the “absence of a complementary political process” and “the next assault is a matter of time and will be more horrible ”.

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