- Hanne Skartveit
Political editor. You can find the podcast “Skartveit” on PodMe and VG+
Israel sides with its best friends – in its biggest crisis ever. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can lead Israel into the deepest darkness.
Less than 10 minutes ago
- The Gaza war leads to ever more suffering and destruction, with over 26,000 dead and close to two million displaced Palestinians
- The war in Gaza is also a battle for the world’s attention and support, and Israel seems to have lost this battle
- Netanyahu rejects attempts to find solutions and refuses to listen to his closest friend, the United States
- Israel’s situation is deadlocked and requires political wisdom, which Netanyahu lacks
The Gaza war may seem endless, without aim and meaning. With endless suffering. Nearly two million Palestinians have been displaced from their homes. 26,000 people have been killed so far, several tens of thousands have been injured for life.
Parents have lost their children, children have lost parents. There is a lack of food, people risk starving to death through the winter. Infectious diseases are spreading. Large parts of Gaza have been razed to the ground. What is happening in Gaza is a man-made disaster.
United against Hamas
In Israel, despair is increasing over the hostages who are still trapped in Gaza. Around 130 people, old people, babies and small children among them. There are regular demonstrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to get the hostages released.
While the rest of the world sees the suffering in Gaza, the Israelis are getting access to more and more information about what happened during Hamas’ terrorist attack on 7 October last year. About grotesque rapes and sexual assaults against women and men, about children who were killed in front of their parents, and parents who were killed in front of their children. About mutilations and torture.
The Israelis are united in the fight against Hamas. But they are not united behind their prime minister. Support for the prime minister is decreasing day by day.
More and more people are wondering if Netanyahu is more concerned with his own future than with the future of Israel. Om Netanyahu sees himself benefited from a prolonged war, because he fears that he will have to resign when the war is over. When he is no longer prime minister, he must appear in court, accused of corruption. He risks several years in prison.
Blinded by grief and anger
Before the terrorist attack, several hundred thousand people had demonstrated every weekend for several months. Against Netanyahu and his attempts to undermine the rule of law, with proposed reforms that would weaken the Supreme Court and give more power to him and his government.
But after 7 October, everyone put aside their opposition to the government. The country was at war. Now it was a matter of standing together. Reservists who had withdrawn in protest against Netanyahu returned. The whole community mobilized. Almost blinded by grief and anger.
Everyone knew what was coming. Israel could not live with an IS-like terrorist group next door. Israel had to respond. It would be a war of enormous suffering. Hamas knew it too. There is reason to ask whether Israel fell right into Hamas’s trap.
Hamas does not care about the citizens of Gaza. During almost 20 years of being responsible for governing Gaza, the terrorist organization has used much of the aid that has come from the international community to acquire weapons and build tunnels to hide its own members – not to protect the population. And not to create a good society for the citizens of Gaza.
Battle for attention
Hamas is fighting a religious and ideological battle. Against Israel, against the Jews, and for an extreme, Islamist state. Without democracy, without freedom of speech, with the suppression of women, queers and others whom such movements regard as second-class citizens.
The war in Gaza is also a battle for the world’s attention, and for the world’s support. Israel seems to have lost that battle. The demonstrations around the world, including here in Norway, are mainly against Israel’s warfare in Gaza. Hatred of Jews is spreading in many places.
It is not certain that the situation would have been different with a prime minister other than Benjamin Netanyahu. But it can happen. What seems obvious is that the war, as it is now being waged, does not serve Israel’s interests.
No one has any good answers to what Israel should do after the terrorist attack by Hamas. But also many who consider themselves friends of Israel are now increasingly asking themselves what the goal of Israel’s warfare is. What will happen the next day, when the war is over. And what is the long-term goal.
How does Israel’s political leadership envision the future? What will happen to Gaza? With the West Bank? How will Jews and Palestinians manage to live without violence and war in the area that today includes Israel and Palestine?
Netanyahu brusquely rejects all attempts to find solutions. He refuses to listen to the United States, Israel’s closest friend. Obviously also to the USA’s repeated calls to take more account of civilians in warfare. Netanyahu flatly says no to all thoughts of a two-state solution. And he will not withdraw from Gaza when the war one day ends.
By all accounts, Netanyahu’s arrogance contributes to the mood among Americans, especially among the young, turning against Israel. The opinion polls in the US should be terrifying reading for any Israeli.
US President Joe Biden risks losing support among his own party members for continued support for Israel. The Middle East policy, for which there has been broad and cross-party support in the USA, could then become as divisive as many other political issues.
Israelis believe the rest of the world does not understand the forces that threaten to crush Israel. They fear Iran, which finances and builds up militias and terrorist groups in Israel’s neighbourhood. Like Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen. And several local groups in Iraq and Syria.
A tough neighborhood
This war began with the terrorist attack by Hamas. Hamas can end the war by laying down its weapons and releasing the hostages. But that’s not going to happen. For Hamas, victory is enough to survive.
Israel will not end the war until the hostages are free and Hamas is defeated. But no one can explain what a victory over Hamas will look like – what it means to win over Hamas.
The situation is deadlocked. There is no immediate solution in sight.
The Middle East is a tough neighborhood. In Israel, there is a widespread opinion that whoever is not the strongest here, goes down. But strength is not just about military power. It is also about political savvy. About the ability to see solutions. And about building trust.
That is where Netanyahu fails. Both towards own residents. And towards the rest of the world.
Published: 03.02.24 at 20:11