Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 14 October 2019

Israeli threats against Gaza are crass and reckless

Ahead of the election, politicians are competing in violent rhetoric and putting lives at risk

Elections billboards of the Blue and White party leaders, alongside a panel on the right showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by extreme right politicians, Israel, Saturday, March 16, 2019. AP 
Elections billboards of the Blue and White party leaders, alongside a panel on the right showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flanked by extreme right politicians, Israel, Saturday, March 16, 2019. AP 

With Israel’s election looming, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is resorting to displays of force and violent nationalistic rhetoric. After two rockets were fired at Tel Aviv by Hamas operatives, Israel said it struck some 100 targets in Gaza in response. However, as different factions and parties jostle for power, Gaza is an issue that politicians can flex their muscles over. The education minister Naftali Bennett accused Mr Netanyahu of weakness and urged “a relentless pursuit and systematic wiping out of the Hamas leaders”. Yoav Kisch, a member of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party, countered by saying that “if need be, we’ll conquer Gaza before the elections”. Meanwhile, the rightward shift of Israeli politics was clearly evident in the words of Benny Gantz – a former army general and leader of the supposedly centrist Blue & White party – who said “a significant and severe response” was required “otherwise it will be impossible to renew our deterrence.”

Mr Netanyahu is trailing Mr Gantz in the polls and faces multiple corruption charges. His public image is likely to be boosted by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Israel later this week. However, following a recent report by the State Department that referred to the Golan Heights as “Israeli-controlled” – not occupied – this engagement has raised suspicions that Washington is about to recognise the territory as Israeli, a measure that will surely ratchet up existing tensions.

On the other side of the border, Hamas has also put lives in jeopardy. Launching rockets at Tel Aviv – a first since the 2014 Gaza war – the group has given Mr Netanyahu a golden opportunity to take decisive action against it. Demonstrators protesting against a rise in consumer prices and taxes were also brutally repressed by Hamas security forces last Thursday, shortly before the rockets were fired. Years of negligence and a grinding, 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the strip have impoverished more than half of Gaza’s population. Be it Israeli aggression, US foreign policy or Hamas’s mismanagement, their lives must not be put at risk for the sake of politics.

Updated: March 18, 2019 07:42 PM

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