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The­ scorpion

Netanyahu pushed Qatar to support Hamas, unfairly targeted the Red Cross and is fighting a war with no exit plan – so who's to blame?
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with family members of hostages held by Hamas. Jerusalem, January 22, 2024. (PMO Spokesperson)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with family members of hostages held by Hamas. Jerusalem, January 22, 2024. (PMO Spokesperson)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows that there are failures that cannot be explained. Like any failed leader, he seeks for somewhere to place the blame, and does everything in his power to divert it from himself, despite him being responsible for the greatest disaster in Israel’s history, and for the fact 134 captured Israelis are suffering untold daily horror in Gaza.

Netanyahu is like a scorpion, trying to sting whoever tries to help us. But whereas the scorpion acts against its own interests, Netanyahu, in his attempts to save his own skin, sacrifices the country’s interests for his own.

At the height of the war, Netanyahu directed his “poison machine” at the leaders of the defense establishment, blaming them for the prewar protests and accusing them of misconduct. He continues to incite this hatred by blaming Qatar, the International Red Cross, President Biden, and even the families of hostages.

“Qatar serves Hamas” is a statement made by Netanyahu to families of captives and which was allegedly leaked by him, before he repeated it at a press conference. Really? It was Israel, led by the same Netanyahu, who asked Qatar to use its influence with Hamas in order to create mechanisms to end repeated cycles of violence between Hamas and Israel. It was the same Netanyahu-led Israel that asked Qatar to supply the money that strengthened Hamas in Gaza. This means that if Qatar served Hamas, Netanyahu himself served Hamas. But he has no use for truth, only for his personal interests.

The essence of his policy is “the Palestinian Authority is a burden and Hamas is an asset”, as stated in 2015 by Netanyahu’s collaborator Bezalel Smotrich. In those words, he expressed the declared policy of several Netanyahu governments, which were designed to weaken the PA and strengthen Hamas. Israel executed the first half by itself and Qatar was recruited to do the rest. Now, when a hostage deal threatens his extremist government, he has no inhibitions in attacking that country, even while it is making huge efforts to bring the hostages home.

Thus, the Red Cross, whose people risked their lives by entering the Gaza Strip in order to rescue hostages, also became a target of his poisoned arrows. At a special Knesset meeting with families of hostages, Netanyahu said: “Several days ago, I met with the president of the Red Cross and gave her a box of medication which the hostages require. I told her ‘Take this to the Rafah Crossing’, but she declined”.

The פresident of the Red Cross, Mariana Spoljaric apparently did not understand that she was dealing with a prime minister who has no qualms about using an organization that risks its workers’ lives to help the hostages in an ugly publicity stunt. He knows full well that the Red Cross is not able to visit the hostages or supply them with medication without Hamas approval. He also knows that in order to be able to function in Gaza, Red Cross personnel cannot criticize Hamas or support Israeli hasbara, even if that is how they feel. Doing so would prevent them from fulfilling their humanitarian tasks. Netanyahu knows all that, but nevertheless resorts to it to gain another pathetic round of self-promotion. This behavior conflicts with Israel’s interests.

Netanyahu seeks more and more targets for his poisoned arrows because he knows that the largest arrow of all is pointed at him. It is under his rule that we experienced the worst disaster in our history. It is he whose leadership and policy made Hamas grow economically and militarily. It is his army that moved more and more troops to the West Bank and failed to protect the Gaza envelope communities. He is the one who, for the past four months, has conducted a war with no exit plan and is preventing the most supportive American president from leading an international coalition to defeat Hamas and also promote regional normalization with Israel. It is none other than Netanyahu who has avoided attempts to free the hostages for fear that he will lose his coalition. He does so in order to pacify the far right, mainly Ben Gvir and Smotrich, whose disapproval he desperately fears.

In the face of such a massive failure, his attempt to escape responsibility, coupled with a lack of basic empathy and human decency, leads him to blame whomever he can and to further his own selfish interests including maliciously targeting the hostage’s families themselves.

His goal is to ensure that there is never a quiet moment here, during which his remaining supporters will see that the emperor has no clothes. He is naked of leadership, naked of concern for the country’s future, naked of responsibility for the lives of the hostages, and naked of concern for anyone and anything who is not Netanyahu.

About the Author
Nadav Tamir is the executive director of J Street Israel, a member of the board of the Mitvim think-tank, adviser for international affairs at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, and member of the steering committee of the Geneva Initiative. He was an adviser of President Shimon Peres and served in the Israel embassy in Washington and as consul general to New England.