Israel-Hamas War
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Revenge is not a strategy

Netanyahu is the person most responsible for the destruction of the Oslo Accords and for the death — already declared by many — of the two-state project

War Israel Gaza Netanyahu
Joe Biden speaks with Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday in Tel Aviv.EVELYN HOCKSTEIN (REUTERS)
Lluís Bassets

There is an Israeli political tragedy that morally surpasses the devastating accumulation of human tragedies that a war signifies. And this is that the one who should exercise the right and fulfill the obligation to defend his country from those who have attacked it, is precisely the one who has stubbornly sown the seeds for these attacks to occur and at the same time is responsible for the fact that his army and secret services were neither warned nor prepared to prevent them. It is an unbearable irony, inside and outside Israel, that it is precisely Benjamin Netanyahu who receives the condolences and unconditional solidarity of Joe Biden, the president who has most quickly and tightly closed ranks with Israel in the face of a danger that could threaten the very existence of the Zionist State.

Netanyahu is the person most responsible for the destruction of the Oslo Accords and for the death — already declared by many — of the two-state project, one Israeli and one Palestinian, mutually recognized and living in peace and security. He was a step away from culminating his project — which Iran assumed the task of obstructing — of turning the Palestinian cause into an irrelevant local issue with the diplomatic recognition of Saudi Arabia, which contains the two holiest Islamic sites, and with it of almost the entire Arab and Muslim world.

He did not see what was coming on October 7 because he lacked military intelligence, but also strategic vision. And, to make matters worse, he has only been able to confront it with the visceral strategy of revenge that applies collective punishment to the Palestinians. This serves only military objectives with contempt for the civilian population, demands carte blanche from his allies, does not bow to any criticism or scrutiny and — what Palestinians fear the most — draws up a map like the one he already displayed before the United Nations, that of Greater Israel, brazenly encouraged by his political allies, supremacist settlers and the ultra-Orthodox fundamentalists, ready to ignite another front through squatting in the West Bank and the desecrations of the Al Aqsa mosque.

This annexationist map, which subverts all international legality, is a strategy of war. And of a scorching and endless war. Only sleepwalking politicians, like the leaders who encouraged the First European War, as characterized by historian Christopher Clark in his book The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, can fuel this escalation, which started with the Hamas massacre, but has its deep and ancient roots in 75 years of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. No one will wake them up with the shouting of the conventional left, nor the wavering hand of international justice that never reaches the region. On the contrary, they will spur an Israel under attack to close ranks around its indisputable right to exist, powerfully affirmed by the lingering and sinister shadow of the Holocaust.

Joe Biden and Antony Blinken are trying everything, in a move as far-reaching as it is risky. The method is familiar: the friend is supported in public and pressured in private, even at the cost of enormous indignation on the other side. To join the de-escalation, to end the siege, to bring in humanitarian aid, to offer guarantees that there will be no new occupation of Gaza and that no one will be forced into another exile from their Palestinian lands. And later, because dialogue will be reopened with the Palestinians to make peace and give them a full state of their own. Of course, Hamas must not continue to rule in Gaza, to send its missiles and commandos to murder Jews and to play a relevant political role in the region. That is what must be ended by force of arms. That is the right and the obligation to defend oneself, not a revenge that evolves into collective punishment and feeds the spiral of an infinite and increasingly dangerous war.

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