Rule number one in the “law of holes” is that if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Rule number two is that if you are not digging, you are still in a hole. These adages sum up Israel’s ongoing political, military and strategic crises, 100 days since the start of its military offensive against the Palestinians in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was faced with the unprecedented challenge of having to react to a major attack launched by Palestinian resistance groups in southern Israel on 7 October. This single event is proving to be a game changer in the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Its impact will be felt for many years, if not generations, to come.
Netanyahu was already in a hole long before Operation Al-Aqsa Flood took place, and he has no one else to blame but himself. To stay in power and to avoid three major corruption cases and trials, he laboured to fortify his position at the helm of Israeli politics with the help of the most extreme far-right government ever assembled in a state whose very existence is an outcome of an extremist ideology.
Even the mass anti-Netanyahu protests throughout Israel took place for months prior to the breakout of fresh hostilities in October, but they did not alert the Israeli leader to the fact that his hole was getting deeper, and that the Palestinians, living under a perpetual military occupation and siege, could possibly find in Israel’s political and military crises an opportunity. He simply kept on digging.
What happened on 7 October should not be seen as a surprise attack. The entire Gaza Division of the Israel Occupation Forces, the massive Israeli military build-up in the Gaza envelope, was created for the very purpose of ensuring that Gaza’s subjugation and siege were perfected using state-of-the-art military technology.
According to the Global Firepower 2024 military strength ranking, Israel is number 17 in the world, mainly because of its military technology. This advanced military capability meant that no surprise attacks should have been possible, because it is not soldiers, but sophisticated machines that scan, intercept and report on every perceived suspicious movement. In the Israeli case, the failure was profound and multi-layered.
As a result, following 7 October, Netanyahu found himself in a much deeper hole. Instead of finding his way out by, for example, taking responsibility, unifying his people or, God forbid, acknowledging that war is never an answer in the face of a resisting, oppressed population, he just kept on digging.
The Israeli leader, flanked by far-right ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir, Bezalel Smotrich and Amichai Eliyahu, made matters worse by using the war on Gaza as an opportunity to implement long-dormant plans to ethnically cleanse more Palestinians, not only from the Gaza Strip, but also from the West Bank. Were it not for the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and strong rejection by Egypt and Jordan, the second Nakba would have become a reality.
Mainstream Israeli politicians, despite their ideological and political differences, almost without exception outdid one another in their racist, violent, even genocidal language against the Palestinians. While Defence Minister Yoav Gallant immediately announced that “there will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed” to the Gaza population, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Avi Dichter called for “another Nakba”. Meanwhile, Minister of Heritage Eliyahu even suggested the “option” of “dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza.”
Instead of saving Israel from itself by reminding the Tel Aviv government that the genocidal war on Gaza would also bode badly for the settler-colonial state, the US Biden administration acted as main cheerleader and partner in the carnage. Aside from an additional $14 billion emergency aid package, Washington has reportedly sent, as of 25 December, 230 aircraft and 20 ships loaded with arms and ammunition to apartheid Israel.
Moreover, according to a New York Times report on 12 January, the CIA is also actively involved in collecting intelligence from Gaza and providing the details to the Israeli security services and armed forces.
US support for Israel, in all its forms, has been maintained, despite the shocking reports issued by every respected international charity that operates in Palestine and the Middle East. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for example, said that 1.9 million out of Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million people have been displaced. Israeli rights group B’Tselem said that 2.2 million are starving. Save the Children reported that over 100 Palestinian children are killed every day. Gaza’s government media office has said that about 70 per cent of the Strip has been destroyed. Even the Wall Street Journal concluded that the destruction of Gaza is greater than that of Dresden in World War Two.
None of this concerned US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited the region five times in less than 100 days. His message remained the same: unconditional support for Israel.
What is so astonishing, however, is that Gaza’s threshold of resilience continues to be unequalled. This is how determined the Palestinians are to win their freedom. We have seen fathers, mothers, friends and relatives in scenes repeated numerous times, carrying the bodies of dead children while howling in pain, yet insisting that they will never leave their homeland.
Palestinian dignity has moved the world.
Even though Washington has ensured no meaningful action will be taken at the UN Security Council, South Africa has taken the lead and sought the help of the world’s highest court to demand an immediate end to the war and recognise Israel’s atrocities as an act of genocide. South Africa’s efforts at the International Court of Justice have galvanised other countries, mostly in the Global South.
Nevertheless, Netanyahu has just kept on digging, unmoved, or possibly unaware that the world around him is finally beginning to truly understand the generational suffering of the Palestinians. The Israeli leader still speaks of “voluntary migration”; of wanting to manage Gaza and Palestine; and of reshaping the Middle East in ways consistent with his own illusions of grandeur and power.
These past 100 days of war and counting against the Palestinians in Gaza have taught us that superior firepower no longer influences outcomes when a nation takes the entirely legitimate collective decision to resist oppression and occupation. It has also taught us that the US is no longer able to reorder the Middle East to fit Israeli priorities, and that relatively small countries in the Global South, when united, can alter the course of history.
Netanyahu may continue digging, but history has already been made: the spirit of the Palestinian people has won against Israel’s machinery of death and destruction. The legendary Palestinian resistance will be his downfall.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.