Does Netanyahu want an all out war?

The more I think about it, the more I am coming to the view that Netanyahu, or at least many of the forces around him, want a new all-out Arab-Israeli war.
Israeli expansionists – I don’t use ‘Zionist’ because it has so many different meanings, some anti-Semitic – have always had grand schemes and played a long game. They now see ISIS audaciously carving out a caliphate state on the areas of Syria and North East Iraq devastated by war, communalism and civil war. Despite the fact that this caliphate state will likely be short-lived, it has too many contradictions to survive in its present form, you can see the smile of admiration on Netanyahu’s face. It is the politics of the accomplished fact. Seize the moment brutally and then say to those who disagree with you ‘so what are you going to do about it?’
There has been an incremental, and from the expansionist’s viewpoint painfully slow, undermining of the integrity of the Palestinian West Bank by the expansionists’ settlement programme. At one moment Netanyahu like Sharon before him supported the settlements, at another moment under international and domestic Israeli pressure, they rebuked them.
Much of the ‘anti-Zionist’ left do not see the restraints that the dissent within Israel puts on the expansionists. But it has always been significant. It is understandable when looking at their treatment of the Palestinians that many might scoff at the Israeli’s government claim, accepted by many Israelis, to be a civilised democracy. However, civil liberties in Israel do allow oppositionists to criticise and to hold mass demonstrations against its actions. At least they have so far.
True, if those demonstrations are of Palestinians, they are treated very differently. Surrounded by IDF soldiers, armoured vehicles, snipers and snatch squads, Israel treats those as security threats. That becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as they often end with physical confrontation, albeit a hugely unequal one with frequent atrocities committed upon Palestinians.
The Israeli government can conduct brutal repression like this and even imprison their own refuseniks because ‘war is different’ and we all know how every government gets away quite literally with murder during military actions. And that hypocritical dualism of a reasonably cultured civil society functioning alongside brutal military atrocities has long been a feature not only of Israel but of many ‘democratic’ nations.
I don’t know how organised or disorganised the opponents of expansionism in Israel currently are. If a mass demonstration suddenly appears in Tel Aviv in condemnation of the Gaza actions it wouldn’t be unprecedented. The mass demonstrations against the Israeli actions in Lebanon took most of us by surprise. But at the moment those oppositionists appear worryingly isolated and weaker than they have been.
Instead there appears to be a wave of anti-Arab feeling sweeping through Israel. I don’t understand its causes fully. The steady but very limited rocket attacks from Hamas and the murder of the 3 Israeli teenagers have undoubtedly had an effect. But Israel has endured suicide bombings with multiple civilian deaths in the past but I don’t think there was a comparable racist civilian backlash to what we see now.
Another earlier mobilising issue for the right in Israel was Iran’s threats to wipe it off the face of the map. But these earlier largely rhetorical threats pretty much disappeared with the demise of Rafsanjani. So again, why now this rise in anti-Arab racism?
The formation of the ISIS caliphate may well be a substantial part of the explanation. The moves towards a Muslim civil-war engulfing much of the area may well have led to a belief that this is some sort of Armageddon moment. Is this what the anti-Arab racists are using to mobilise?
The war between ISIS and Shia forces will undoubtedly cause Netanyahu to speculate that 2 of Israel’s major armed enemies, Hezbollah and Hamas, may be both divided and deprived of support as they are drawn in on different sides of a potential Muslim regional civil war.
What we are seeing from Netanyahu may be a calculated provocation for a new war in the belief that now is a good time.
This might be wild speculation on my part and I am hoping friends will be able to say that it cannot happen for all sorts of reasons – any reason.
For a war would be a disaster – for the Palestinians most obviously. With rising anti-Arab racist forces behind him, international pressure is unlikely to have much effect on Netanyahu although obviously it should be mobilised.
The key still must be not only the self-defense of Palestinians in Gaza and also the West Bank. They will need to defend themselves and they will have massive international support and sympathy. But it is difficult to see the disastrous racist strategy of Hamas towards Israelis citizens being sidelined and that will continue to inflame the situation. There were some indications of democratic opposition to Hamas during the Arab Spring and even afterwards with a Palestinian replica of the Egyptian Tamarood (the Egyptian Tamarood had built a mass movement that last year brought down the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Morsi. Later, shamefully, supporting the brutal military repression by the Egyptian Army). But hopes of a democratic force in Gaza capable of asserting itself either politically or militarily against Israel as well as Hamas looks ludicrously unrealistic – especially in the middle of a militarily bombardment.
The only other serious possible opposition to a siege of Gaza and a wider conflagration lies within Israel. It needs to be as visible and active as it can be.
Those of us outside of this growing cauldron need to be encouraging these forces, seemingly pathetically weak at the moment, in Gaza, elsewhere in the Occupied Territories but most importantly in Israel that oppose the siege of Gaza and any wider war plans of Netanyahu – and can advocate a solution of 2 free states for 2 free peoples, that can end the continuing madness of war. Ultimately they are the only ones that can stop it.


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