Netanyahu is no pacifist, the ceasefire was a political ploy

Netanyahu is no pacifist, the ceasefire was a political ploy
Comment: A ceasefire is a diplomatic vantage point that can be manipulated by Israel, writes Ramona Wadi.
6 min read
20 Nov, 2018
Fisherman Nawaf al-Attar, 20, was killed by the Israeli navy in Gaza, 14 November [Getty]
Israel's latest negotiated ceasefire, which it broke within hours as the Israeli army murdered a Palestinian fisherman in Gaza, has been the subject of much disagreement.

For Palestinians, the ceasefire signified a halt to the bombing which, some speculated, might have been the prelude to another prolonged and visible massacre, like Operation Protective Edge.  

Israelis, on the other hand, viewed the ceasefire as a sign of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's purported compromise. Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman even resigned over it, stating in an interview with YnetNews, "You cannot manage a security strategy for the State of Israel by buying quiet; that just allows Hamas to strengthen its forces." 

The Israeli settler population took a similar stance, with the media promoting a speech by right-wing former Knesset Member Sharon Gal in which he declared, "if I become defence minister [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh will be dead within 48 hours".

For Israel's right-wing politicians and a percentage of its settler population, anything short of completely destroying Gaza was labelled as cowardice. The ceasefire, therefore, carries connotations of surrender and opportunities in terms of internal political wrangling which may threaten Netanyahu's colonial strategy.

Four years since Operation Protective Edge, the memory of such destruction - and the international community's refusal to hold Israel accountable - still reverberates. The incessant bombing exposed not only the Israeli government's near-complete destruction of Gaza, but also the alliance between the government and the settler-population.  

Israel's manoeuvring of bombing Gaza at intervals upon the pretext of alleged retaliation and subsequent ceasefires are globally acceptable tactics

Rhetoric since then focused on the elimination of Hamas by Israel, until US President Donald Trump overtly expressed support for colonial expansion, unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and the reframing of the Palestinian refugees' narrative to eliminate the Palestinian right of return.

The shift from Netanyahu's talk of eliminating Hamas to focusing on other diplomatically-acceptable strategies that have the backing of the international community and provide opportunity for manipulation, sidelined the more aggressive rhetoric in favour of a long-term strategy.

Israel, after all, is in no haste. Which is why, for example, Netanyahu has preferred to focus on colonial expansion rather than draw attention to Israel with another massacre of magnitude such as Operation Protective Edge.

The imbalance of power is still working in Israel's favour due to the international ostracising of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance.

Blaming Hamas will not be completely eliminated from Israel's rhetoric, but it will be used strategically and the manifestation of such blame - be it incursions into Gaza, further restrictions on the enclave, or sporadic bombing - will not satisfy politicians calling for an immediate bloodbath.

As much as Israel wishes for the demise of Hamas and the Palestinian resistance, the shift in Netanyahu's strategy must be taken into account, as it will, in the long term, result in a scenario of unfolding events rather than an elaborate sequence of human rights violations.

Bombing Gaza to destruction and prolonging its humanitarian deprivation are both detrimental to Palestinians.

The latter will undoubtedly inspire additional complacency within the international community - Israel's manoeuvring of bombing Gaza at intervals upon the pretext of alleged retaliation and subsequent ceasefires are globally acceptable tactics as there is potential for circumventing the accountability that comes with blatant demonstrations of breaking international law.

Since Operation Protective Edge, which also ended following a brokered ceasefire, Israel has flouted the agreement countless times, to the point that there is no longer a ceasefire to speak of.

The latest broken ceasefire already renders the agreement void. How does the ceasefire rhetoric hold when it is nullified? The answer lies in the nature of its negotiation - a ceasefire is a diplomatic vantage point that can be manipulated. Indeed, the agreement was flouted but Netanyahu has already been hailed, albeit erroneously, as having "
chosen peace".

This is the fine line that Netanyahu has embraced, while knowing that his strategy will, in the long term, reap a multitude of invisible victims. If constant aggression is normalised within mainstream discourse, the scrutiny over human rights violations will become even more isolated.

Israel is already in contempt of the remaining vestiges of human rights concern in the international arena - the slow tally of murdered, injured and forcibly displaced Palestinians will be dismissed both in terms of alienation, as well as the preoccupation of keeping up with the next violation.

There are other factors that contribute to Netanyahu's strategy, and which align the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge, when the Obama administration voiced its preference of PA control over Gaza, and Trump's support for Israel at an international level. There is a correlation that goes beyond what has been termed as US hostility against the PA following the closing down of its diplomatic mission and expulsion of its ambassador.

Anything short of completely destroying Gaza was labelled as cowardice

While Israel's illegal blockade and colonial violence have forced Palestinians in Gaza into a deprived existence, both in terms of politics and humanitarian needs, the PA has willingly contributed through its imposed sanctions to gain control of Gaza by means of coercion.

Meanwhile, Trump's altering of the Palestinian narrative at an international level is also reminiscent of PA concessions, especially when it comes to the Palestinian right of return.

With political actors willing to assume and declare open complicity with Israel, what need is there for Netanyahu to attract international condemnation when murdering and displacing Palestinians can be accomplished as an established routine practice?

Furthermore, the international community's non-response validated Netanyahu's stance while mocking not only Palestinians, but all who called for an international deployment to protect Palestinians.

The imbalance of power is still working in Israel's favour

Netanyahu is no pacifist - his exclusion of Palestinians may not be "by all means" in terms of the Plan Dalet which set the pace for the 1948 Nakba.

The ceasefire was a calculated political ploy exposing the fact that Palestinians have no recourse to protection and that human rights as implemented by the international community will never take precedence over colonial complicity.

Ceasefires, therefore, are a form of displacement preferred by mainstream media narratives and the international community.

It was only speculation over the possibility of another ongoing massacre in Gaza that sustained international attention for the briefest time span.

In reality, the recent bombing was the latest in a series of ongoing targeting that failed to garner any form of attention from the international community.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law. 

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.