15.02.2024 Author: Alexandr Svaranc

Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East …

Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East

Netanyahu has not accepted Hamas’ conditions for another ceasefire. Consequently, the war in the Middle East continues and the peace deal is delayed. The talks between William Burns in Paris and Anthony Blinken in Riyadh and Aman failed to achieve their goals. Through Hillary Clinton, Washington is offering Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation. Apparent disagreements with the US administration on the idea of recognising a Palestinian state motivate the head of Israel to expand the conflict in southern Gaza. The Refah operation threatens to internationalise the conflict and drag Egypt into it.

In fact, with this paragraph we can conclude this short narrative on the state of dynamics of the Middle East crisis. And yet, why Netanyahu does not stop fighting against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, but continues to provoke the “big fire” in the region – the U.S. entry into the war against Iran? Will this be the salvation of Israel’s security, demilitarising Iran and nullifying the prospects of a Palestinian state? Or is this the way Netanyahu is trying to maintain his power, slipping towards autocracy, and wait for Republican Donald Trump to come to power in Washington?

In recent weeks, information has been circulating in the world media about the positive prospects for achieving another truce in the Palestinian-Israeli military conflict zone, which became possible thanks to successful negotiations between the heads of the special services of Israel, the United States, Egypt and the Prime Minister of Qatar in Paris. At the same time, Netanyahu was trying to get a two-month truce in the Gaza Strip to solve two key tasks:

1) the final release of the remaining Israeli hostages in order to reduce the severity of domestic political pressure and demands for his resignation;

2) Regrouping forces to carry out a blitzkrieg in the north against Hezbollah by invading southern Lebanon.

In addition, the Israeli side expects that the involvement of the United States and Great Britain in the Middle East conflict against pro-Iranian forces in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, one way or another, will force the Anglo-Saxons to enter the war against Iran itself. The latter is the cherished dream of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but is not yet included in the plans of US President Joseph Biden.

It seemed that the work of the intelligence services (Mossad head David Barnea and Shabak head Ronen Bar) in Paris brought encouraging results to Tel Aviv in reaching a 6-week truce on hostage and prisoner exchange. However, Bibi could not accept the diplomatic initiatives of the US and UK (Anthony Blinken and David Cameron) to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli crisis by recognising Palestinian independence within the 1967 borders.

Accordingly, the next (fifth after the beginning of the war between Hamas and Israel) four-day Middle East tour of Secretary of State E. Blinken (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank) from 4 to 8 February this year caused disagreement of B. Netanyahu (in particular, the proposal to achieve a lasting peace with a permissible form of recognition of Palestinian independence).

Tel Aviv, of course, familiarised itself with Hamas’ three-stage ceasefire plan. According to this draft:

The first phase proposed the release from Gaza of all Israeli women, children under 19, the elderly and the sick within 45 days in exchange for all Palestinian women, children, the sick and elderly prisoners over 50 from Israeli prisons.

At the same time, Tel Aviv was expected to release 1,500 Palestinian prisoners (including 500 sentenced to life imprisonment) and Israeli troops would be withdrawn from populated areas of Gaza, allowing freedom of movement for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The UN would be able to set up tent cities. At the same time, Israel was to temporarily halt military operations and aerial reconnaissance, and redeploy troops outside populated areas from the entire Gaza Strip.

The second stage involved the release of male Israeli hostages (including soldiers) in exchange for Palestinian hostages (the number of which would be determined later).

The third stage was to exchange the remains of the dead prisoners and reach an agreement to end the war.

However, on Wednesday 7 February, Benjamin Netanyahu refused to accept Hamas’ offers, rejected the truce deal and reiterated Israel’s continuation of the military campaign to achieve “total victory”. In other words, Netanyahu has not expressed his attitude toward the content of the hostage and prisoner exchange plan (i.e., what he agrees with and what he does not agree with). Bibi rejected the very idea of a truce with the prospect of peace. So, Netanyahu did not agree not with the decisions of the Paris talks on a “humanitarian pause” reached with the leading participation of CIA Director Burns, but rejected Secretary of State Blinken’s idea of peace at the expense of recognising Palestinian independence.

That is why former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the Bloomberg Economic Forum in Singapore on 9 February (two days after Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision) that Israel and Palestine need new leadership to have any chance of a peace agreement. She accused Netanyahu of failing national security, provoking this war and refusing to reach a peace agreement. Therefore, according to H. Clinton, “Netanyahu must go. He is not a credible leader. The attack happened under his watch.

For the US, as the former Secretary of State put it, Netanyahu “is an obstacle to a ceasefire.” While “we need to create an environment where there is a chance to revitalise the peace process …. I think there needs to be new leadership over the Israelis and the Palestinians to have some chance of some kind of peace agreement, especially on a two-state solution.”

The key thesis in H. Clinton’s accusatory speech is to achieve at least some kind of peace agreement through a two-state solution, i.e. recognising Palestine. That is why Washington, after Blinken’s visit to Tel Aviv and Ramallah, proposes a replacement for Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas.

Opposition to Netanyahu is growing within the ruling Likud party itself, accused of personal ambition and attempts at political survival. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview with the US newspaper Politico that Benjamin Netanyahu is “morally destroyed” by his massive failure on national security issues and is in a state of “nervous breakdown” trying to avoid resignation.

In fact, the “Israeli hawk” image that Bibi had built for himself during his 35 years in power, capable of confronting Palestine and Iran, has shattered after 7 October and the losses suffered, making it the worst national security failure in Israel’s history since 1948.

The US is urging Israelis to keep up the pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu and the government, for whom power and chairs are of greater interest than the fate of the same hostages. “As long as the release of the hostages is not the first and foremost goal for Israel, everything President Biden does and says, everything I do and say, is of little consequence,” former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

In other words, the United States is warning its ally Israel that it will not continue to negotiate with the same Turks and Arabs on options for a peace agreement and the fate of Israeli hostages if American interests in the Middle East and efforts in the negotiation process are ignored by Bibi’s ambitions, who retains hopes for another provocation of a large-scale war between Washington and Tehran.

It is no coincidence that Hillary Clinton has become the transmitter of such a position of the United States. In principle, the latter is not uncommon in American diplomacy, when a high-ranking retiree preliminarily signals the contours of Washington’s new approaches on important military-political issues (for example, the statement of retired Admiral James Stavridis regarding the creation of an international operational sea and air grouping to convoy merchant ships in the Black Sea, etc.). However, in the Black Sea, this US political announcement failed to materialise due in no small part to Turkey’s firm stance on compliance with the Montreux Convention on the Black Sea straits. But in the Red Sea, a similar US-British coalition against the Houthis became a reality.

The fact is that H. Clinton in the summer of 2009 could have been the object of a terrorist attack on Cape Verde Island, where she took part in an international conference, by Israeli intelligence services. Toga on board the ship “Arctic Sea” carried a munition for an explosion with an attempt on the life of the U.S. Secretary of State and the subsequent accusation of Iran in the commission of a global provocation. According to the plans of the organisers, in conditions of tension between Israel and Iran, this was to initiate the bombing of Iran by the US, i.e. the beginning of the US-Iranian war. In other words, the death of the Secretary of State would have become a necessary casus belli.

But then this provocation was timely prevented with the decisive participation of the Russian side. In response, President Barack Obama refused to ground Patriot missile defence systems in the same Czech Republic and Poland against Russia.

Netanyahu’s rejection of the truce in the Gaza Strip leads to an equally radical position of the same Arab East countries. In Riyadh, Mr Blinken was clearly told that without a peace agreement and recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, Israel will not be safe.

However, the Israeli Prime Minister, disagreeing with the American plan to resolve the Palestinian question, decided to escalate the situation once again and conduct a military operation in the south of the Gaza Strip in the town of Refah, where a significant number of Palestinian refugees had accumulated. In fact, on the night of 12 January, the Israeli army began bombing Refah, killing 100 people and wounding 230. In response, Egypt is pulling troops to the borders with Israel and has warned that the peace agreement with Tel Aviv may be cancelled. Cairo fears that the military action in Refah will provoke the migration of hundreds of thousands of refugees to Egypt.

That is why John Kirby, a representative of the US National Security Council, urged Benjamin Netanyahu not to carry out military action in Refah on the border with Egypt, where almost half of Gaza’s population is sheltering. However, the Israeli prime minister, due to external pressure, has set a new deadline of 10 March for the occupation of Refah. At the same time, US Deputy National Security Advisor to the President Jonathan Feiner acknowledged the White House administration’s mistakes during the response to the conflict in the Gaza Strip. Feiner noted, “there is no certainty that the Israeli government is prepared to take ‘serious steps’ toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

The United States is paying lip service to its displeasure at yet another escalation in the Middle East, but the Senate is even meeting on a Sunday afternoon and passing a bill to provide billions of dollars ($95.3 billion) in military aid to Ukraine, Taiwan and Israel. At the same time, aid to Israel is supposed to be increased to $14bn. If this foreign aid bill is approved by the House of Representatives, the United States will once again show its duplicity in the eyes of not only its traditional adversaries but also its allies (including Turkey and key countries in the Arab East).


Alexander SVARANTS – PhD of Political Science, Professor, especially for the online magazine «New Eastern Outlook»

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