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Netanyahu needs a lifeline

If war is a continuation of politics by other means, Israel's aggression on the Gaza Strip has been a political disaster. Apart from its mass killing of civilians and destruction of homes, the Israeli army has accomplished nothing to write home about. On the contrary, it has suffered heavy losses, particularly among its elite Golani brigade. This failure on the battlefield has rendered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu incapable of imposing the settlement he wants.

With the growing number of casualties and near paralysis gripping Israel, time is against Netanyahu and his war cabinet. After weeks of threats to widen the ground offensive, the Israeli troops are still stalled on the borders; unable to go forward, and too embarrassed to withdraw.

In the past, Israel has relied almost exclusively on the Egyptian intelligence to deliver its 'security' needs in Gaza. However, with the coming to power of the former head of military intelligence, Abdul Fattah Al Sisi, Netanyahu hoped that the time had come to make a decisive blow not just against Hamas in the Gaza Strip but the Palestinian national project as a whole. His gamble has proven to have been a grave blunder.

Whether he was fed misleading intelligence or the lack thereof, Netanyahu has evidently misjudged the changes taking place in the region. Buoyed by the support of the Egyptian regime and its backers, the Israeli prime minister concluded that Hamas in the Gaza Strip was sufficiently isolated and weakened by the siege that it would not be in a position to resist an all-out assault.

Alas, much to his chagrin there are other regional actors with the political will and courage to back the primary demands of the resistance – an end to the aggression and a lifting of eight–year blockade of the territory. Both Qatar and Turkey have been foremost in this regard.

Even though it is important to ensure to open the borders and allow the unfettered delivery of food and medicine, their demand is much greater. The ultimate goal remains an end to the Israeli occupation and freedom for Palestine.

While not seeking to circumvent or exclude Egypt, Qatar and Turkey have emphasised that Gaza must not become a theatre where Al Sisi settles his political scores against the Muslim Brotherhood. Likewise, they insist, that the Egyptian intelligence should not be allowed to play rival factions within Fatah against each other (notably Dahlan versus Abbas), or Fatah against Hamas. Despite claims about security concerns, Netanyahu's decision to launch his attack on Gaza was actually an attempt to ruin the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas. In fact successive Israeli governments have, since 2005, acted to detach the Gaza Strip from the rest of Palestine, geographically and politically.

The political fallout for Netanyahu's latest adventure will have far-reaching consequences, domestically and externally. He will have to take full political responsibility before his people for this military humiliation. The world's most 'moral' army has exposed itself as a merciless killer of women and children. Meanwhile, despite the disingenuous 'claims' of being branded as 'terrorists', the resistance in Gaza has inflicted military losses on Israel; much more than it has disclosed to date.

After three weeks of relentless bombing, Israel is now further away from its political objectives than it has ever been. Its leaders can shriek high-sounding demands but within themselves they know these are allmeaningless and unattainable. Those who echo these demands are equally deluded.

Accordingly, Netanyahu's demand that the resistance in Gaza be disarmed sounds more like a desperate cry for a lifeline rather than a serious political proposition. It is, besides, a crude reminder of all that has gone wrong in Palestine. The country which possesses the fourth largest army in the world is demanding the disarmament of the resistance simply because it wants to remain an occupying power.

There could only one response to this farce. As long as Israel maintains military occupation, there will be Palestinian resistance.

Despite the heavy loss of life and property the resistance in Gaza has changed the direction of the Palestinian national project. It has to all intents and purposes, created a new reality and opened up opportunities in Palestine. In spite of their little means and many enemies, it has shown what can be achieved when there is strong political leadership and a willingness to sacrifice. Surely, if it had the supportit deserves much more could have been achieved. But even if the world were to abandon it, it is determined to go it alone.

There is no doubt Israel's prime minister is in dire need of a military victory of sorts before he decides to climb down from the high horse which he mounted. Unfortunately for him, the days of free political concessions to Israel are over. The next battle is almost now certainly not for the defence of Gaza but the liberation of Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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