TEHRAN – The October 7 military operation by the Palestinian resistance groups against Israeli sites in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip has put Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bind.
Netanyahu has long prided himself on his ability to weather political storms. He faced a litany of charges ranging from bribery to the abuse of power for political gains. Yet, he not only avoided prison but also remained on the top in Israel.
The Al-Aqsa Storm, however, may put a disgraceful end to the longest-serving Israeli prime minister in Israeli history.
To begin with, Bibi Netanyahu had already been accused of serious national security offenses long before a group of Palestinian fighters seething with historical indignation broke into the castle of Israel on October 7. His controversial judicial overhaul has divided Israel and caused prolonged street protests and strikes. Also, facing increasing isolation from other political groups, he coalesced with the most extremist groups in order to maintain his longstanding grip on power. During the government formation talks, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir offered him a hard-to-resist option of forming a government even though they, with their fiery actions and words, were political ticking bombs. Netanyahu was seduced, believing that he would be able to control the extremist figures in his cabinet.
But the daily provocations of these two extremists, combined with Israel’s longstanding oppression of the Palestinian people, inevitably led to the October 7 explosion, which presented Netanyahu with bad and least bad options.
First, there is the issue of hundreds of Israelis, some of whom are high-ranking military officials, who are held captive by the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza. According to Israeli estimates, more than 239 Israelis are held in Gaza.
The families of the captives held several sit-ins and protests in Tel Aviv to put pressure on the government to bring their loved ones back home. They formed an association and are meeting with Israeli officials to get the latest about their relatives. A while ago, when the Israeli army suddenly announced an incursion into Gaza, they were extremely enraged by the Israeli government’s disinterest in the safety of the Israeli captives. To assuage these concerns, Netanyahu and his war minister Yoav Gallant received the representatives of the families. But they both refrained from making a solid promise of bringing back the captives alive.
On the other side, the Palestinian resistance groups have expressed their readiness to release all Israeli captives in exchange for Israel releasing all Palestinian captives, who are estimated to be more than 7,000.
The Palestinian groups have so far voluntarily released some of the captives on humanitarian grounds. But the Palestinian calls for a captive swap deal have fallen on deaf ears in Tel Aviv, which seems to be intent on sticking to its longstanding doctrine of terrorism-based deterrence.
Gallant said more military pressure on Gaza would lead to the release of the captives, a clear indication of the Israeli doctrine, which it applied to all its neighbors, and in some cases, led to some tactical victories for Israel. “The more military pressure, the more firepower and the more we strike Hamas – the greater our chances are to bring it to a place where it will agree to a solution that will allow the return of your loved ones,” Gallant said at a press conference.
Of note, Israel’s military mentality is based on the notion that if Israel uses maximum violence against its enemies both civilians and military, they will retreat and surrender. This was on full display during the Nakbah Wars of 1948 and the Six-day War of 1967, when Israeli military forces used maximum violence, on Palestinian civilians and other Arab societies. Only in 1948, Zionist militias, such as the Haganah, which was later incorporated into the Israeli army, displaced nearly 700,000 Palestinians, mostly villagers who, seeing their neighbors brutally killed by Zionist fanatics, decided to leave their homeland. Many of these Palestinians fled to neighboring Arab countries and some went to Gaza. The irony is that Israel wanted to displace the Palestinian refugees in Gaza again in the early days of its current carnage, but the Palestinians staunchly rejected that.
This explains why Gallant and the likes of him in Israel are insisting on violence as the only solution to the captives’ crisis.
But there is a catch; Palestinians and the whole international community know the Israeli military mentality like the back of their hand, having paid a heavy price in the past.
Following the failure of their terrorism-based strategy in Gaza, Israel is now aimlessly killing civilians in Gaza without the slightest hope of achieving a strategic goal. They can neither eradicate Hamas – their stated goal – nor get their captives released without paying a heavy political price.
Benjamin Netanyahu is fully aware of this bitter fact. Therefore, he is desperately looking for someone to make a scapegoat of. It was under these circumstances that he blamed the Israeli army and security services for the October 7 fiasco. Facing public backlash, he quickly walked back his criticism and apologized. Then he resorted to the charade of liberating a female captive from Gaza. This came hours after Hamas released footage of Israeli captives lashing out at Netanyahu for his epic failure on October 7. But the problem was that the female servicemember Netanyahu claimed to have liberated was active on Facebook days after the October 7 attack.
Overall, Netanyahu is facing pressure from all directions. His military strategy in Gaza turned out to be an aimless slaughter of civilians, the families of the captives are increasingly fumed at his incompetence, and his political fortunes are in constant decline. Netanyahu hoped to go down in history as another Ben Gurion for Israel, but he ended up weakening Israel unprecedentedly. At the end of the day, the people of the region in 1948 weren’t cognizant of the extent to which the Zionists could be evil and cruel. Today, the people of the region learned the lessons of history the hard way. And they speak to Israel the language it understands.
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