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Netanyahu punishes and seeks revenge, but still does not win

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during an AIPAC conference in Washington, US on 6 March 2018 [Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during an AIPAC conference in Washington, US on 6 March 2018 [Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]

One war drags another, as Israel has waged three wars on the Gaza Strip in the last decade. One round of escalation brings on additional rounds, each having the potential to develop into another war. The latest round of escalation was merely a repeat of the past rounds, despite being more than an escalation but less than a war. Just like all of the past wars and successive escalations, this one ended with understandings and a truce, which ultimately is a temporary ceasefire. As usual, there was no official Israeli acknowledgement of this agreement after the war or escalation. Instead, the news comes from Palestinian sources in the form of statements and from media sources, which are then quoted by Israeli media outlets reporting the outcome of the escalation or war, either in a ceasefire or in a return to the past truce agreement. Until now, no Israeli official has issued any news or statements regarding the ceasefire or reaching a truce. In reality, an agreement was reached in this regard, under Egyptian, Qatari and international auspices, the full details of which were reported by Palestinian sources.

Since the beginning of the last round, according to military and security sources, quoted by Israeli media outlets, the Israeli government determined that the round would last two or three days. This was allegedly their predictions, but it was proven that they had determined this in advance and planned for it, as the small war lasted the period that they had determined. It was marked with repeated statements by Netanyahu about instructing his forces to intensify the strikes on the Gaza Strip while deploying more ground and air forces, as well as the Special Forces, to be stationed along the fence between the Gaza Strip and its settlement envelope.

READ: Netanyahu orders army to launch ‘more strikes’ on Gaza

In his capacity as the Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Netanyahu wanted to send a message to his political, partisan and security circles that he had the final say in this war. He even summoned the Cabinet for a meeting, even though this did not occur during past rounds of escalation. This message clarifies to them that with the latest Knesset elections, the number of Likud seats has increased by five compared to the past elections, along with Netanyahu’s premiership. This was for many reasons, including the fact that the Israeli public opinion gave Netanyahu and the Likud the green light to implement the policies they had announced. These policies include the policy he announced during his electoral campaign regarding a truce with Hamas. This constitutes an effective response to all critics of this policy in the context of the political and partisan polarisations in Israel.

Israeli Likud Party campaign material and posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strown on the floor following election night on April 10, 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel [Jack GUEZ/AFP/Getty]

Israeli Likud Party campaign material and posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strown on the floor following election night on 10 April 2019 in Tel Aviv, Israel [Jack GUEZ/AFP/Getty]

If this is not enough to convince his critics of the truce, he reiterates before and after the truce that he seeks to draw Israel’s policy on dealing with the Gaza Strip. The alternative to this truce is a war that Israel cannot win nor can it control its outcome. Such a truce would serve Israel’s interests related to strengthening the Palestinian divide on the one hand and securing the Gaza envelope settlements on the other. It will also lead to reaching a long-term truce that would open the door to an agreement over Israel’s prisoners captured by Hamas.

READ: Netanyahu does not want PA to collapse

With all these variables, the equation remains as it was in the past without any real change in the balance of power that led to the wars and rounds of escalation that bring each other on. The bottom line in this context is that Netanyahu can seek revenge and punish, but he cannot win!

This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Ayyam on 8 May 2019

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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