It’s all about politics, stupid!
Once again militants in Gaza, who have scant consideration for the outcome of their actions for their people, have given Israel the opportunity to engage in overwhelmingly disproportionate retaliatory military actions which disregard the rights of innocent Palestinians. One gets a sad sense of “déjà vu” here.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly hopes to gain from this show of force in the lead-up to the January elections. Given that Israeli society has turned right wing and militaristic, his calculations are probably correct.
Consider the remark of Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai, quoted by Haaretz, saying that the goal of the present operation was “to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.” The fact that such incomprehensible remarks remind one of a time when the same abhorrent mentality worked so tragically against Jews in the past appears to be totally lost on today’s desensitized Israelis.
There is more to it than just this, however. Netanyahu, who is clearly finding it hard to digest the results of the U.S. presidential elections, obviously wanted to act early in order to “fine tune” the position of President Barack Obama’s administration on Israel, “before it starts getting new and fancy notions.” Israelis are still smarting from Obama’s comments during his first term concerning the 1967 borders.
Given that Israel has shown it has the capacity to lead any U.S. administration by the nose in times of conflict, it is hard to imagine that this did not feature in Netanyahu’s calculations this time too. The now-forgotten “USS Liberty incident” is a clear example of how America is capable of swallowing national pride when it comes to Israel.
The timing of “Operation Pillar of Defense,” as the Israelis are calling their latest display of force, is also telling in this respect. Especially when one recalls that it’s bloody “Operation Cast Lead” in December 2008 came just after the first Obama victory.
Can this be an uncanny coincidence?
Most likely not, if one is to judge by Washington’s automatic support for the latest Israeli operation, and its refusal to accept any rationale other than the Israeli one. It is an open question, of course, just how happy President Obama is because his administration has once again had little choice but to give the impression of being wagged by the Israeli tail, and at a critical moment in the Middle East to boot.
The Israeli campaign comes at a time of turmoil in the region when Washington is trying to adjust to the realities of the post-Arab Spring environment, and is also trying to cope with the seemingly intractable situation in Syria with help from regional allies such as Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Given the unqualified U.S. support for Israel, it is impossible for Obama to be popular in those countries – despite his middle name – where governments have to be sensitive to public opinion more than ever due to the Arab Spring. In addition to this, Israel has managed to unite countries in the region who have become estranged due to the Syrian crisis.
Thus America’s nemesis Iran, for example, and its key ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, are on the same page once again thanks to Israel. Turning U.S. public opinion even more against the Islamic world because of this solidarity against Israel cannot be too bad for Netanyahu.
It cannot however be too good for President Obama as it tries to lay new bridges in the region. So while Israel says this is all about self defense, it looks like it’s more about politics than anything else.
The same might be said about Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s vitriolic anti-Israeli stance, of course, which has resurfaced once again in all its ferocity because of Israel’s latest operation against Gaza. Especially at a time when Turkey’s influence in the Middle East is being whittled down because of the Syrian crisis.
But that is the subject of another article.