Jack Guez Agence France-Presse Israeli soldiers remove the body of a compatriot, killed during an attack by Palestinian militants, in Kfar Aza, in southern Israel, on the border of the Gaza Strip, October 10, 2023.
The surprise attack launched on Saturday by Hamas on Israel was perhaps not that surprising.
< p>This Israeli “Pearl Harbor” could well have been largely the logical and tragic consequence of several decades of policies carried out by current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to strengthen Hamas at the expense of peace in the region, believe several observers of this hot spot on the globe. A causal link which, at the time of the first assessments, risks further weakening the politician, placed for 10 months at the heart of the turmoil by his controversial reforms of the judicial system of his country.
“The Israelis “reaped last weekend what Prime Minister Netanyahu has sown since the mid-1990s,” summarizes Israeli political scientist Uriel Abulof in an interview with Le Devoirin Jerusalem on Tuesday. He is a professor at Tel Aviv University. “Netanyahu initially supported Hamas to divide the Palestinians and undermine the more moderate Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, in order to advance his thesis that there is no serious partner for peace. He then undermined Israeli democracy and diverted resources, including military resources, to his ultra-religious nationalist supporters, ignoring all warnings about the harmful effects this would have, particularly on the Israeli army and the country's defense capacity. » And Saturday morning was a rude awakening.
Israelis reaped last weekend what Prime Minister Netanyahu has sown since the mid-1990s
— Uriel Abulof
“The best-laid plans of prime ministers and presidents sometimes go awry,” columnist Michael Hirsh analyzed Monday in the pages of the magazine Foreign Policy . But they rarely turn against them in such a radical way as with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. »
The “War of Sukkot”, named after the religious festival which ended at the time of the first missile attacks against Israel, not only takes place 50 years almost to the day after the Yom Kippur War , which dates from 1973, but also in the wake of efforts by several Netanyahu governments to ensure that the Palestinians never obtain a state.
“For almost three decades, he has sought to undermine the two-state solution and the creation of an independent Palestinian state,” Osamah Khalil, a Middle East specialist at Syracuse University in the United States, said in an interview. “For this, he did everything to weaken, without dissolving, the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, and he engaged in talks with Hamas to maintain its hold on Gaza” and thus better divide power representing the Palestinians.
Even though the group has sworn since its founding to destroy Israel, Netanyahu has never hesitated to strengthen it, even moving it from “the status of a simple terrorist group to that of an organization with which Israel conducted indirect negotiations through of Egypt,” recalls analyst Tal Schneider in the pages of the Times of Israel. Hamas was allowed to receive funds from abroad and then included in discussions about increasing the number of permits granted by Israel to Gazan workers.
“Since 2014, governments led by Netanyahu have virtually turned a blind eye to incendiary balloons and rocket attacks from Gaza,” he continues. […] Since 2018, Israel has allowed suitcases containing millions in money [from Qatar] to enter Gaza […], in order to maintain its fragile ceasefire with the leaders of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. » He added: “Most of the time, Israeli policy was to view the [Palestinian Authority] as a burden and Hamas as an asset. »
The situation is bad, as revealed since Saturday by the massacres by the same Hamas of more than 250 participants in a music festival a few kilometers from Gaza and of around a hundred civilians in the kibbutz of Kfar Aza, according to the Israeli army. At last count, on the fourth day of the conflict, more than 3,000 people had lost their lives on both sides, and more than a hundred had been taken hostage by the terrorist group.
A master of illusion
“Over the years, [Netanyahu] pursued a failed and deceptive security policy, says Gilead Sher, former prime minister's chief of staff Israeli Éhoud Barak, quoted by Foreign Policy. He preferred the status quo to in-depth political solutions — even transitional or interim — in the West Bank and Gaza. » His policy has favored the feeling of impunity and the strengthening of the capacities of Hamas, he continues in substance, with the key now being a backlash.
Can the prime minister, currently leading one of the extreme coalitions Israel has ever seen, escape unscathed? The prospect is still difficult to envisage, even if Netanyahu remains solely “responsible for adopting policies designed to consolidate the Israeli occupation, deny the legitimate rights of Palestinians and ensure increasing radicalization and violence” which resulted in the war in progress, believes Osamah Khalil.
“What has just happened in Israel will have repercussions on the lives of Israelis and on the political life of the country for months to come,” assures Uriel Abulof , while pointing out a constant in Netanyahu’s career: “He never takes responsibility for his actions and never admits his mistakes. So we cannot expect him to resign. As for the coalition he leads, it could throw him out. But she has so many political projects to implement that she will certainly do everything to stay in power as long as possible. »
“At the end of the day, it will never be Benjamin Netanyahu who will pay the price for all his mistakes,” he continues. But ordinary Israelis, distanced for years from possible peace only to be, since Saturday, suddenly plunged back into the reality of war.