Netanyahu is no hero, and the tragedy is our own.
Prime Minister Netanyahu fired Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon on Tuesday, after the latter criticized Netanyahu for holding fire, and even called him “a lefty,” which is probably the worst thing you can say to someone in the current political atmosphere. Sacking Danon is not a risky move (Danon is a far-right politician with little parliamentary support), but firing him helped Netanyahu present himself as “moderate” and “restrained” leader. Yossi Verter says similar things in Haaretz, as does Ron Ben-Yishai in Ynet; even I wrote a few good things about this aspect of Bibi’s persona in the past. It’s time to revisit this idea.
Bibi may seem restrained in times of war when compared to leaders like Ariel Sharon (the first Lebanon War), Shimon Peres (Lebanon, 1996) and perhaps Ehud Olmert (Lebanon 2007, Gaza 2008), as all three believed that one can re-shape geopolitical realities through military campaigns. Netanyahu is a little more suspicious of this theory, which is one of his positive qualities. Yet the dead bodies he is leaving behind are beginning to pile up, and frustration over the army’s failure to stop the rockets in the current campaign result in carrying out terrible ideas, such as forcing 100,000 people out of their homes, or moving from using guided missiles to field artillery in this heavily populated area. Fish in a barrel have nowhere to run to; neither do civilians in Gaza. It’s enough for one Israeli bomb to fall on a crowd of those new refugees in order for a moral and political catastrophe to take place. In fact, this is already taking place.
But the heart of the matter is this: Netanyahu has a major stake in the process that has brought us here. This is something the national conversation in Israel completely ignores. Throughout his career, Bibi has simply been unwilling to take any concrete measures vis-à-vis the Palestinians that do not include military force. As far as Netanyahu is concerned, Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas are pretty much the same. Any gain by either one of them is a loss to Israel. It’s always a zero sum game.