NEW YORK, Dec 22 (IPS) – Benjamin Netanyahu must go. Under the guise of judicial reform, Netanyahu has undermined the rule of law and divided the country. It is toxic to Arab states, even those that signed the Abraham Accords. Netanyahu has become an obstacle to Israel's democratic development and regional relations.
Israel needs a new government committed to peace and a cabinet that will promote reconciliation. Eternal war plays into Hamas' hands. It appeases Jewish hardliners who oppose Palestinian national aspirations. The war also serves Netanyahu by distracting voters and delaying accountability for his government's October 7 intelligence failure.
It took up to ten hours for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to respond to the Hamas invasion. Israel, known for its security and intelligence services, was caught flat-footed. Panicked kibbutz residents cowered in safe rooms while 1,200 Israelis were killed, massacred in their homes and on the grounds of the Nova Music Festival. Hundreds of people were captured by Hamas, gang-raped and turned into sex slaves. One hundred and thirty remain in captivity.
It is impossible to reconcile Israel's goals. Israel cannot eradicate Hamas and free the hostages held in the underground world of Gaza's tunnel network. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has just visited Jerusalem to discuss priorities and limits to the Israeli offensive.
In the fog of war, the IDF killed three Israeli hostages wearing a white flag and speaking Hebrew last week. Shooting people, even Hamas members who surrender, violates the laws of war and Israel's military code. Exhausted and happy, the incident is under investigation. The Chief of the General Staff of the Israeli army and the head of the intelligence service have apologized. Netanyahu staged and delayed meetings with the families of the hostages.
The incident caused outrage throughout Israel and raised questions about Israel's conduct of the war. The Hamas Health Ministry claims that 20,000 Palestinian civilians have died as a result of IDF activities. The families of the hostages are demanding an investigation.
There is a growing clamor to bring the hostages home. Hostage families are also demanding a plan to end the war. They have generally supported Netanyahu's response, but are hesitant. They believe the continued actions in Gaza are putting the lives of the remaining 130 hostages at risk. The botched operation brought the Israeli institutions – the IDF, the Shin Bet and the Mossad – into disrepute.
Even President Joe Biden, Israel's biggest supporter, criticized the IDF for its “indiscriminate bombing.” France, Germany and Britain are also fed up and demand a “sustainable armistice”.
Netanyahu said there will be a time and place for an investigation into the Hamas attack and Israel's response. He believes that the longer the investigation lasts, the more the passions of the hostage families will be calmed.
Israel's slowly spreading war with Hamas must stop. Israel had the right to retaliate after October 7, especially when details of the brutality came to light. Two months later, the IDF appears to be floundering. Israel was characterized as the aggressor and lost its moral standing. Israel certainly has every right to defend itself. But what began as calculated counter-terrorism now appears more like rage and revenge.
Can Hamas ever be defeated? Hamas is more than an organization. It's a movement. For every Hamas terrorist Israel kills, there are more Palestinian militants waiting.
It's time for a new approach. An interim government should be established under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority, and plans should be made for an eventual Palestinian state to live side by side in peace with Israel.
Indiscriminate bombing is counterproductive. A more surgical approach would distinguish between Hamas and Gazan and address claims of collective punishment.
Internationally brokered talks will follow when the hostages are freed. The Palestinians need a national horizon to separate themselves from the clutches of Hamas.
An Israeli election would likely oust Netanyahu and lead to the formation of a peace cabinet, returning Israel to the path of a democracy that respects minority rights and values good neighborly relations.
It is inconceivable that Netanyahu can survive his putrid performance. Prosecutors are waiting to indict Netanyahu on corruption charges. Israelis may debate the details of forming a government for months, but polls suggest regime change is something Israelis now agree on.
David Phillips is an adjunct professor in the security studies program at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.
UN IPS Office
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service