The timing of this highly volatile and unpredictable military operation reeks with political opportunity. The particulars that prefaced this turn of events are hard to ignore: Naftali Bennett’s sudden appointment to the Defense Ministry; Avigdor Lieberman’s ultimatums for national unity; Benny Gantz’s short time-frame for forming a government and Bibi Netanyahu’s looming criminal indictments. Add to this a stroke of luck that placed the Islamic Jihad leader in the IDF’s target sights for the first time since he appeared a year ago on the most wanted terrorists list. This wonderful “coincidence” should send out a clear message to citizens of Israel huddled in bomb shelters: The safety of the population is less vital than Bibi’s political survival.
One day after Bibi derided Gantz for his attempts to form a minority government that would rely on the support of the Israeli Arab Join List, the IDF’s successful precision strike against the Islamic Jihad was aimed to send out a message of “unity.” Now all the Bibi-ists can chant their favorite mantra: “Let’s not forget who the real enemies of Israel are, the terrorists and those who encourage them, namely the Israeli Arabs and the Israeli Left.” A simplistic view of a complex reality. Also a monstrous lie. A stratagem that preaches unity and practices divisiveness. And after all his time in power it works like a charm for Bibi, who is still the key player on our unruly political landscape.
In times when the home front is under fire and national solidarity calls the tune, any public criticism of the Prime Minister is frowned upon. Even when that very same PM has already led this country through two miserable national elections within a few months, can’t form a government, faces criminal charges and has a longstanding reputation as “the national inciter.”
In the PM’s official announcement yesterday, the IDF Chief of Staff and Director of General Security Services were roundly commended for carrying out the attack in Gaza. In return, they refrained from saying something that might leave a bad aftertaste, and also endanger their high-profile jobs, such as: the attack could have been carried out sooner.
But it’s oh so hard not to suspect that Bibi timed this operation to coincide with Gantz’s last days to form a coalition. Consider Gantz’s options: a unity government arrangement that would obligate Bibi to discontinue his position as PM while under indictment, and a minority government that relegates Bibi to the status of a regular Knesset MK awaiting indictment. Neither option will keep Bibi out of prison. Hence, a well-timed military distraction that can whip up patriotic fervor, anti-Israeli Arab sentiment and a coalition accord between the Likud and Blue and White parties, under terms that are more favorable to Bibi.
By all indications, Bibi’s plan is working. The so-called left wing media has fallen in line with their objective coverage of the IDF-Islamic Jihad conflict. No one is publicly accusing Bibi of timing yesterday’s attack to suit his political and legal needs. And while Gantz has stated that the military operation will not affect his efforts to form a coalition, media analysts have already buried the minority government option, Bibi’s biggest nightmare.
Having followed yesterday’s events with the TV on for hours, the most critical observation of the military campaign that I heard came from an unlikely source, Ya’akov Ahimeir, the veteran right-wing journalist who had the gumption to ask: “what’s the solution?” to the never ending Gaza problem.
Bibi is not likely to comment on this, but by now everyone knows the answer: there is no solution to the Gaza problem under Bibi. The Palestinian problem? You got to be kidding. As always, Bibi’s self-preservation outweighs the core issues and national interest.