IMMEDIATE RELEASE Nov 2, 2023
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Netanyahu is not Israel
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not popular in Israel and the expectation there and elsewhere is that he will not survive politically once the current fighting is over. The more immediate question is whether Israel can wait that long to recover from the damage Netanyahu is doing to Israel, to the Jewish people worldwide, and to the Middle East.
He is an autocratic leader who has given his country the farthest right government in its history, and who is fighting this war for himself and his political survival as much as for his country. The bombing he has ordered of Gaza surpasses in a week what the U.S. dropped in a year in Afghanistan.
The Israeli strikes on a refugee camp in Gaza crystallized the growing outrage over the suffering of civilians as Israel’s war with Hamas entered its fourth week. The bombing took out a Hamas commander who had helped plan the October 7 attacks on Israel, but it also killed innocent residents, many of them children who were pulled out of the rubble in the densely populated camp.
This is the price of war, Netanyahu says. Their defense forces are not intentionally killing civilians, but if Hamas embeds itself in the population, these are unfortunate but necessary casualties.
Is killing one high-value Hamas commander worth hundreds of Palestinian deaths? That is the question he answered when the same camp was bombed the next day, doubling down on the target and defying those who would counsel restraint.
Netanyahu isn’t heeding those calling for a ceasefire or a pause in the fighting, and he appears to be the principal architect of the war strategy. The relentless bombing has turned much of Gaza into rubble with little apparent thought given to what might follow next for the people of Gaza, and who will rebuild their strip of land.
The carnage is not just morally wrong, it is backfiring politically, judging by the pro-Palestinian protests erupting worldwide. And from a military perspective, Netanyahu’s relentless bombing is creating more terrorists than it is killing.
President Joe Biden has assured Netanyahu that Israel has America’s support while publicly and privately telling him that he needs to curtail the bombing, that it is pointless to reduce Gaza to rubble.
Israel has a choice to make. Bombing puts fewer of its soldiers at risk. The alternative is ground warfare, crisscrossing city blocks one by one and going underground into the tunnels constructed by Hamas to remove the enemy one by one.
It is hard urban warfare, and for a country that places a high value on its soldiers, many will die. As of this writing, more than a dozen Israeli soldiers have died in the initial incursion into Gaza. There are alternatives such as the famous Israeli “knock, knock” policy of warning civilians to evacuate a building before destroying it.
But the intentional slaughter of hundreds of civilians as a means of attacking Hamas fighters cannot be justified as collateral damage. Collateral damage occurs when a military target is hit and a limited number of near-by civilians become casualties in the process. What Netanyahu is doing in Gaza is the opposite. Large numbers of civilians are targeted, and a handful of near-by terrorists become casualties. It is a direct violation of the rules of war.
This is Netanyahu’s last stand, and he appears willing to take it as far as he can go in search of what he could claim is a victory. But he cannot hide behind a collateral euphemism. The Israeli people deserve better, the world deserves better, and soon. Netanyahu is not and cannot be Israel.
Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
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END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
IMMEDIATE RELEASE Nov 2, 2023