Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

What Netanyahu has in store for us

Secretary Blinken’s comment that the “ceasefire-hostage-Palestinian prisoners” deal is entirely in the hands of Hamas is not entirely correct. In his speech from two weeks ago, President Biden said that the deal would lead to the end of the war. He noted that the first six-week ceasefire would continue even if the negotiations on phase two were not completed. Hamas has stated categorically that there would be no deal if there is not a clear obligation to end the war. Netanyahu and members of his government have explicitly stated that there would not be an end to the war before Hamas is destroyed. This is an unbridgeable gap.

Ending the war without a political alternative to who will control Gaza after the war means that Hamas will remain in place. The only way to enable a Palestinian alternative to Hamas willing and able to take control of Gaza is for there to be a coherent political plan linked to a clear path to Palestinian statehood for the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Netanyahu is far from that possibility. Alternative Palestinian governance in Gaza is possible and it would include Palestinian invitation to Arab states to send an Arab peacekeeping military force on the condition that Israel withdraws from Gaza. Transferring control over Gaza to a Palestinian alternative government perhaps supported by the Palestinian Authority, but not the Palestinian Authority, is the only way to stabilize Gaza and to have a non-corrupt Palestinian government committed to a peaceful two-states solution that is capable to gaining the support of the international community to fund the reconstruction of Gaza.

Netanyahu’s plan, on the other hand, is to remain in Gaza, at least militarily, for years. Netanyahu’s thinking is based on the hope/belief that eventually the Israeli army will find and kill the Hamas leaders – mainly the Sinwar brothers and Mohammed Deif. He believes that once those top leaders are killed, the hostages will be released. If the top Hamas leaders are killed by Israeli forces, there is a very good possibility that the remaining living hostages will be killed. At least, this possibility should not be thought to be unreasonable. In addition, the Israeli military pressure has already led to the killing of too many of the hostages.

Staying in Gaza with the current Israeli government still in place will inevitably lead to renewed Israeli settlement in Gaza. That would be totally disastrous for Israel in every way possible. Continued Israeli presence in Gaza will strengthen Hamas and new recruits will join from bereaved families and from people who have lost their homes and businesses – and that is basically every person in Gaza. Armed insurgency against Israeli troops in Gaza will continue and increase. Armed attacks against Israelis in the West Bank will increase and maybe even cross the green-line border to neighboring Israeli communities. The war in Lebanon will escalate and thousands of Hezbollah rockets, missiles and drones will be shot at Israel.

Hasn’t Netanyahu already done too much harm and damage to Israel? Since 2009 he convinced Israelis and the world that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be managed. He led Israelis and the world to believe that Israel could occupy and dominate the Palestinian people for 56 years and still have peace. He enabled Israelis to believe that 18 years of economic blockade and siege of 2.2 million people in Gaza with extreme poverty and a fanatic Islamic regime could enable quiet because of suitcases of cash being transported to Gaza and because of the false theory of too many Israeli generals that Hamas was deterred. Hamas has never been deterred and cannot be deterred – as I have said even on Israeli television repeated since 2008. Netanyahu has led Israelis and the world to believe that without even trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel could make peace with the entire Arab world while Palestine remains under occupation. Repeated rounds of elections in Israel confronted only one issue: Netanyahu yes or Netanyahu no. Not once did the elections focus on the primary existential issue facing Israel – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

For years Israelis have been lying to themselves. Israel defines itself as a Jewish and democratic state. Yet with more than seven million Palestinians and seven million Israeli Jews between the River and the Sea, Israel is neither Jewish nor democratic. On October 7, 2023, all of the lies and manipulations blew up in our face. The Israel Defense Force had become an Israeli Occupation Police Force, not even deployed on Israel’s southern border with Gaza. It was a holiday weekend, but nonetheless, the army was in the West Bank protecting illegal Israeli settlers instead of defending Israel’s borders. If there had been 10-20 Israeli tanks deployed on the border and five assault helicopters in the air, October 7th would not have happened. And even after all of Netanyahu’s lies and manipulations, he absolutely refuses to take responsibility. Netanyahu should have resigned on the night of October 7. This is what would have happened in any other genuinely democratic country. But Netanyahu has no shame and like the Trump followers in the USA, Netanyahu has a crowd of hypnotized blind members of a personality cult with their own television and radio stations who spread fake news, lies, incitement and hatred.

Now that Gantz and his party have finally left the government and hopefully fully understand the lies and manipulations of Netanyahu, perhaps the millions of Israelis who are beginning to see our reality with open eyes will take to the streets. Perhaps the lead negotiators, if they have integrity – Dede Barnea, Ronen Bar, and Nitzan Alon – will resign from leading the negotiations because it is not possible to bring the hostages home without an obligation to end the war. When I spoke with members of the Israeli negotiating team more than a month ago, I made it clear – in my assessment – that without a political end game, there is next to zero possibility of reaching a deal with Hamas that will bring the hostages home. The negotiators know, not just because I told them, that they should be negotiating for all of the hostages now and not only 18 of them. They know that the war must end. But as they told me, “We cannot deal with the political issues.” Being that there is no military solution here, and there never has been, without dealing with the political issues, there is no end game.

Netanyahu not only failed to protect Israel on October 7 of last year. He continues to be the most dangerous person to Israel’s future. Now, we the people, must stand up and take to the streets and for the sake of our future and our country, we must bring down our government.

About the Author
The writer is the Middle East Director of ICO - International Communities Organization - a UK based NGO working in Conflict zones with failed peace processes. Baskin is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is also a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha - Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel.