Benjamin Netanyahu gambles away his last credit (Comment)

Benjamin Netanyahu gambles away his last credit (Comment)

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that he will not survive the peace politically. That is why he is fueling the war – and thereby losing his last international friends.

Once upon a time there was a friend, a fairly old friend, who had long been said to be difficult: rude in his behavior, stubborn in his dealings, a little resistant to advice. Now long-term relationships don’t rot so quickly, at least not because of a few character flaws and differences of opinion. It was important to stand by the friend. Out of historical ties, but also because he had had to go through a lot. He grew up in a tough part of the world, always at war with hostile neighbors. His brother died when he was just 26.

These days, however, the West’s ties with its long-time companion Benjamin Netanyahu are threatening to break. The friends have become estranged. They are less and less likely to see eye to eye. When they still speak on the phone or meet, the tone is usually harsh. If push comes to shove, the Federal Republic of Germany would have to arrest an Israeli prime minister. It’s hard to imagine.

When Baerbock came to visit, Netanyahu personally

Netanyahu is threatened with an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes. Palestinian flags are flying more and more in American lecture halls and on European streets, rather than flags with the Star of David. With his narrow-mindedness, Netanyahu is squandering a lot of credit, and possibly even the future of his country, which he is actually supposed to protect. He has turned Israel – a victim of terror that has become a state and which believed it was assured of broad solidarity after the barbaric Hamas massacre – into a country on the international sidelines.

When the head of government received Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Jerusalem almost a month ago and the conversation turned to the starving people in the Gaza Strip, a loud argument broke out, allegedly with the following, yet quite personal, words from Netanyahu to his German guest: “We are not like the Nazis!”

Netanyahu did not even visit his most loyal and oldest friend, Joe Biden. The US President had instructed his ambassador to the UN Security Council not to block, as usual, a resolution calling on Israel to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza, but to abstain. Israel’s head of government then called off a planned trip to Washington at the last minute.

The prime minister is ostensibly fighting against terrorists, but actually to maintain his power

Netanyahu governs under a multi-layered umbrella that protects his country from rockets from a broad terror alliance made up of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and the hardliners from Iran. But the air defense system also seems to intercept warning words from allied politicians. No matter how much his partners from Germany, Great Britain or the USA tried to contain him and convince him to adopt a more cautious military tactic in Gaza – Netanyahu blocked him and continued to wage war regardless of the losses.

Despite the thickest clouds, he still wanders around like a 21st century Sun King: “I am the state!” The majority of Israelis are behind him, after all, that is all that counts – that is his line of argument. But it is wrong.

They took to the streets against him in large numbers last summer. The prime minister is still facing a corruption trial. Ostensibly, he is fighting to destroy Hamas and free the remaining 130 or so hostages from their clutches. But in reality, he is fighting primarily for himself, to maintain his own power. He knows that he will not survive the peace politically. That is why he is fueling the war.

Israel needs friends. It cannot exist alone

And recently even the USA, which sent billions of dollars in military funds to Tel Aviv, parked two aircraft carriers in the eastern Mediterranean and protected the Jewish state from Iranian missiles, threatened to withhold its support. In the event of a major offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, arms deliveries would be stopped immediately, Biden warned. Netanyahu’s defiant reaction: “If we have to stand alone, then we will stand alone.” Even if that meant fighting “with our fingernails”.

That is precisely his mistake in thinking: Israel cannot win the war against the enemies of its existence alone. It needs friends to watch its back. It needs outside support to survive in the Middle East – military support from Washington, moral support from Berlin, rapprochement with Saudi Riyadh. This is probably one of the reasons why Netanyahu appears to be backing down on Operation Rafah. According to American government circles, the Israeli war cabinet has now “updated” the attack plans. No more two full divisions, but a narrower military framework.

But what comes after Rafah? What if all the hostages are finally freed? Or not? What if the last Hamas henchman is pulled out of the deepest tunnel under Gaza? Or not? Real peace can only exist under two premises: security for Israel and a terrorist-free self-government for the Palestinians. When his old allies asked Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks and months for a plan for what comes next, he did something unusual. He didn’t shout. He just kept quiet. When friends stop talking, that’s a bad sign.

Source: Stern

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