Whenever Israel has chosen to use aggression to intimidate its neighbours in the West Bank, Lebanon or, as it is doing today, in the Gaza Strip, it has always left itself wriggle room to back off when public opinion and, more importantly, US and Western support seemed to be running against them.
It has done this by progressively escalating their assaults on their enemies by pretending to be the victim when their enemies retaliate. That way they can always tell the world via their well-oiled global propaganda machine that they are merely responding to attacks being made against them by ‘terrorists that hate Jews’. They claim that they only want peace and that their assaults against the Palestinians are purely defensive and designed to deter attacks against them. They tell the world that their assaults are designed to eliminate or minimise civilian deaths and injuries and are aimed only at military targets. They claim that, when civilians are killed and wounded, it is because the place where they have been killed or wounded was being used by ‘terrorists’ who have deliberately used the civilians in the area as ‘human shields’ in order to avoid having their weapon placements being hit.
However, when one delves into the histories of Israeli’s various conflicts with their Palestinian and Arab neighbours, a different reality emerges.
Rather than retaliating against rocket attacks by Palestinian fighters, as is claimed in this latest round of extreme violence, Palestinian fighters in the Gaza Strip were actually responding to shooting attacks against unarmed Palestinian civilians by the Israelis who have used snipers to kill at least five innocent Palestinian civilians, including a 58-year-old mentally ill woman who had wandered too close to the border fence with Israel. More than 60 other Palestinian civilians have also been wounded by Israeli snipers as they worked in the fields near the border. These attacks against Gazan civilians have been for the express purpose of goading the Palestinian fighters into retaliating by firing rockets into Israel which, in turn, then provides Israel with an excuse to attack the Gaza Strip on the pretext of stopping the rockets.
In the past when Israel has launched major attacks against Hamas, Israel has always used the same tactic whereby they attack and keep attacking until at some point world public opinion causes the Israelis to agree to a ceasefire.
But this time around, the circumstances of the fighting have provided Israel with an opportunity to press on with the fight as they see the possibility of actually realising their dream of retaking the Gaza Strip with the ultimate aim of pushing out the Palestinians and reoccupying it and eventually annexing it to Israel. There have been a number of factors that have produced these circumstances. Firstly, while Netanyahu has always been sensitive to public opinion, his government today has a number of senior ministers and officials in it who are even more right-wing than he is. They are the ‘don’t care what the rest of the world thinks’ faction of the Israeli government who are quite openly advocating a full invasion and occupation of the Gaza Strip and the complete destruction of Hamas and their allies by either killing or capturing all of them and/or forcing them to flee out of the Gaza Strip. This would be the first step toward reoccupying the territory with Israeli civilians. Secondly, Netanyahu’s aggressive stance this time around has very strong support among Israelis, 80% of whom support his actions against the Palestinians. Also working in Netanyahu’s favour is Hamas’s insistence that any ceasefire will be accompanied by assurances that the Gaza Strip will have its blockade against it lifted and that it will be able to trade freely with Israel, Egypt and internationally via an internationally monitored seaport and airport. Hamas is hoping that popular worldwide support for their demands will persuade international leaders, especially in the US and Europe, to push Israel for a ceasefire and an agreement that features Palestinian demands. Israel, on the other hand, is looking for nothing less than the full destruction of Hamas and has made it clear that they will not be acceding to Hamas’s conditions for a ceasefire. Netanyahu will likely take full advantage of the unprecedented support he has gained from the Israeli people.
During the course of this round of violence, Netanyahu has steadily ramped up the assaults against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and particularly on Gaza city itself and the surrounding neighbourhoods. The bombing and shelling has become increasingly more indiscriminate with civilians being deliberately targeted as they seek shelter in hospitals and schools after their homes had been destroyed. Civilian infrastructure is also being increasingly targeted as the recent destruction of the Gaza Strip’s only electric power generating plant has demonstrated.
As the destruction of the Gaza Strip gathers pace the Israeli propaganda machine has been hard at it spinning the increasingly most outrageous and obviously transparent lies that would be laughable if not for the tragedy they are attempting to cover up or blame others for. The Israelis have even accused Hamas of bombing their own hospitals and schools and killing their own children and other civilians in spite of independent witnesses confirming that the Israelis were responsible for the death and destruction of these people and facilities.
Netanyahu has stated that the Israeli Defence Forces will not rest until every tunnel has been destroyed and all of the rockets found and destroyed. In making such a statement and knowing that an operation of that magnitude will likely take some considerable time, he has clearly indicated that Israel has no intention of leaving the Gaza Strip anytime soon – if, indeed, ever.
Netanyahu is very much aware of the world’s reaction to the onslaught that is taking place in the Gaza Strip. He has seen the massive pro-Palestine demonstrations that have taken place around the world and has heard the pleas from world leaders and the United Nations to end the slaughter but he continues to ignore them. He gets encouragement from the fact that the US, while calling for Israel to enter a ceasefire agreement, at the same time stocks up Israel’s diminishing munitions supplies as well as continuing to supply Israel with the jet and diesel fuel needed by the Israelis to continue their attacks on the Gaza Strip and the Gazan people.
Netanyahu thinks he’s on a roll this time around and, with the backing of the majority of the Israeli people who have succumbed to the propaganda behind him together with the support of the US, sees no reason to relent in his aspirations to defeat Hamas and put the Gaza Strip under Israeli control. With the destruction already wrought in the Gaza Strip coupled with domestic and US support, Netanyahu may have convinced himself that he has gone beyond the point of no return and may even believe that it is his manifest destiny to retake the Gaza Strip and make it a part of Greater Israel once and for all.