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For Israel, Gaza is a preventive war – POLITICO

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J.friend Dettmer is an opinion editor at POLITICO Europe.

Top Israeli politicians see the possibility of elections in the near future. And in their preparation, they began to complicate Israel’s war against Hamas, making relations with the country’s main Western ally, the United States, more difficult.

In fact, right now, none of the major contenders in this race are talking about a short war – nor are they accepting calls from the United States and Europe for a serious effort to revive long-moribund talks on a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli conflict. -Palestinian conflict.

They wouldn’t dare even if they wanted to. There is no appetite in Israel for a resumption of two-state talks because no one can imagine how that could bring peace following the brutal Hamas attacks on southern Israel on October 7, which left 1,200 dead in a terrifying wave of violence.

And it is this collective position – and not just that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – that is increasingly at odds with the US administration, which has publicly called for a shift from a high-intensity war in Gaza to a war more surgical to reduce civilian casualties.

In fact, despite growing international pressure to end Israeli military operations in the face of a growing number of civilian deaths, as well as clamors from relatives of Israelis still held hostage by Hamas for a deal to release the captives, Netanyahu and other top leaders pledge to continue the fight. And they offer no respite until the job is done and Hamas is crushed enough that it will never again – at least for years to come – strike a blow like it did.

Speaking in the Knesset on Monday, Netanyahu was uncompromising, telling lawmakers: “We must continue to the end.” Explaining that he had come directly from Gaza to the session, he cited battalion commanders who had told him: “We need time.”

In an editorial published the same day, the prime minister wrote that for Hamas to be demolished, “its military capabilities must be dismantled and its political rule over Gaza must end.” Hamas leaders have vowed to repeat the October 7 massacre “again and again.” This is why their destruction is the only proportionate response to prevent a repeat of these horrific atrocities. Anything less guarantees more war and more bloodshed. »

Some U.S. and European officials POLITICO spoke with suggested that it was, as one, simply a case of “Bibi being Bibi,” and that Netanyahu had every interest in continuing a long war, in hopes of helping erase the missteps that failed to prevent it. the attacks. In short, he needs time to restore his public image as Mr. Security. They also noted that he had limited room for maneuver thanks to the religious and far-right parties in his coalition.

But while that may be the case, to view the military campaign as primarily driven by Netanyahu’s political needs is to misunderstand the Israeli psyche in the aftermath of October 7.

The perspectives of Israel and Washington contrast sharply: US President Joe Biden’s administration is focused on political strategy, while Israel has its eyes set on war strategy to the exclusion of all else. And no active party leader presents a serious plan for Gaza’s post-war governance. They do not see how the Palestinian Authority could be sufficiently revitalized to be given responsibility for managing Gaza.

Just listen to active politicians who are not friends of Netanyahu. Take, for example, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, one of the likely contenders to replace Netanyahu. Gallant told Knesset lawmakers: “This is a long and difficult war. This has costs, high costs, but its justification is as high as possible. And he promised that Israel would punish Hamas for its brutal attacks “whether it takes months or years.”

Citizens queue for food cooked in large pots and distributed for free during times of war on December 28, 2023 in Rafah, Gaza | Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

Gallant – whom Netanyahu attempted to fire last March for opposing his controversial attempt to weaken judicial independence – is also at the forefront of war cabinet members and Israeli Defense Force commanders who are pushing for accountability with the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Speaking to the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee, Gallant stressed that Israel cannot afford to allow threats to fester along its borders, north or south. “If we do not achieve the objectives of the war, we will find ourselves in a situation where the problem will not be those who live near Gaza or in the north; the problem will be that people won’t want to live in a place where we don’t know how to protect them.

According to Gallant, Israel is “engaged in a war on several fronts. We are under attack on seven fronts: Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, Judea and Samaria (West Bank), Iraq, Yemen and Iran. We have already responded and acted on six of these fronts. And in a clear threat to Iran, he added: “Anyone who acts against us is a potential target. Nobody has immunity.

Then there’s Benny Gantz – the former defense minister who is widely seen as the man most likely to end Netanyahu’s long and turbulent career. Before the Hamas attacks, Gantz had expressed concern about the dangerously “extremist” direction Netanyahu and his right-wing political allies were taking the country. But after October 7, he largely echoed Netanyahu on the war.

For the sake of national unity, Gantz joined Bibi’s war cabinet, and in a speech earlier this month, the former minister indicated that he and Netanyahu shared skeptical ideas about a solution to two states. “It is clear, both for us and for our partners, that the old concepts and the reality of recent decades must change and be focused on the future. »

At this point, Gantz can at most envision a Palestinian “entity.” He didn’t specify what exactly that might be – but it’s clearly not a full-fledged state.

In fact, across the political spectrum – outside of a left wing in disarray – there appears to be little courage for a two-state solution. (Though most mainstream Israeli politicians are not as damning as Netanyahu about the Oslo Accords.) And privately, they have urged the Biden administration to reverse its two-state narrative — which only adding to America’s frustrations with its difficult ally. .

From Washington’s perspective, without the prospect of serious discussions on a two-state solution, the Palestinian Authority will never be convinced to assume governance of Gaza, and the Gulf Arab countries will not cough up the billions needed to the reconstruction of the Palestinian territory. coastal enclave. The war will only further radicalize the Palestinians.

Netanyahu is “a good friend, but I think he needs to change,” Biden said at a campaign fundraiser this month. “You can’t say there won’t be a Palestinian state in the future. »

However, Israeli leaders do not see the future of a Jewish homeland with a Palestinian state on its side – not until the Palestinians have changed and “deradicalized.” For them, this is a prophylactic war – a war that will protect Israel from repeated pogroms but offer no cure.


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