Hamas’s plot evidently caught much of the system off guard, but its motivation should have surprised no one; war is for its leaders what it has been for all fascists – a romantic passion, a supreme value, and a strategic aim.
Even so, Hamas wasn’t in this alone; it had a major accomplice – Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinians’ nominal leader has been at the helm for 16 years, a political eternity in which he could have paved his people’s path from tragedy to hope. Others – George Washington, David Ben-Gurion, Chiang Kai-shek, to name but a few – have built prosperous polities over shorter periods of time.
Not Abbas. Having squandered billions in foreign aid, and fearing defeat at the ballots, he canceled what would have been the second election since he won a four-year term in 2005. Hamas’s response was deranged, but it had all the reason in the world to feel that its archenemy stole its election.
THE FAR Right did not cause this week’s mayhem, but it made its contribution by struggling to wrest assorted east Jerusalem properties from their Arab tenants, an effort that was ready to culminate with a High Court ruling concerning the impending evictions’ legality.
Never mind the details; the point is the rationale, which says that any pre-1948 Jewish ownership must be restored. By this logic, Jewish properties that were once owned by Palestinians should also revert to their original owners. Where would all this lead?
This is besides the fact that Jerusalem’s demographics should not be the business of nonprofits. Like all matters of national interest it should be formulated, and handled exclusively, by the government.
The far Right doesn’t care about any of this, just like it doesn’t care where its pyromania might lead because its aim, like Hamas, is to light the fires that someone else will put out.
These are the people with whom Netanyahu, unlike all previous Likud leaders, struck an alliance; a collection of hotheads whose leader, professional troublemaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, the prime minister shepherded into the Knesset by calling on voters to vote for his parry, Religious Zionism.
Last week, Ben-Gvir built a makeshift “office” on a sidewalk in Sheikh Jarrah, the neighborhood that became a flashpoint of Arab-Jewish confrontation because of those formerly Jewish-owned houses. Meanwhile, the far Right pressured to march a Jerusalem Day parade straight through the powder keg that the Damascus Gate had become over several days of Islamist violence.
The far Right was backed in this reckless request by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, a sycophant whose cheerleading of the prime minister has fueled his career, only this time he misread the boss. Realizing where the far Right’s ride might lead him, Netanyahu personally rerouted the parade, and also called Ben-Gvir on that sidewalk, and effectively ordered him to scram.
Such was the proverbial aftermath of the pact Netanyahu had struck with a political devil. The wiz who thought he could ride any political beast found himself atop an untamable tiger that first torpedoed his effort to build a government and then poured oil on Jerusalem’s religious inferno.
These were not circumstances, coincidences or mishaps; they were part of a strategy, a policy that deliberately shunned the broad political center which Netanyahu renamed “the Left” in order to embrace ultra-Orthodoxy’s non-Zionists and the far Right’s ultra-Zionists.
The same tunnel vision was deployed in Gaza.
EAGER TO diminish the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu invested in Hamas, thinking he would toy with its zealots the way he toyed routinely with Israeli politicians. Throw some money at them and they will play their part, he evidently thought.
The policy that was lunched when Qatari suitcases containing $15 million were admitted into Gaza was morally bankrupt and strategically mad. Maybe the Palestinian Authority’s officials can be bought for cash. Religious fanatics are an entirely different kettle of fish.
That is, of course, beside the fact that paying terrorists so they won’t attack your citizens is not why our ancestors built the Jewish state; for that kind of deal they could have stayed in the shtetl.
THE SAME frivolity that animated his embrace of the far Right and his transactions with Hamas underpinned Netanyahu’s treatment of Israel’s Arabs.
Yes, as his electoral setbacks piled he suddenly discovered Israel’s Arabs, and offered them the deal that now seems set to be activated by his successors.
However, as would happen to him with Hamas and the far Right, sobriety and humility here also arrived belatedly.
This week’s barbarian assaults by Israeli Arab rioters on Jewish targets, including synagogues, was not Netanyahu’s doing, God forbid; it was the doing of local mobs incited by Gazan Islamists. However, the thugs numbered but several thousand of some 1.6 million Israeli Muslims.
The rest were the ones who were disempowered over the years in which Netanyahu disenfranchised and humiliated them, most memorably with his texted Election-Day lie in 2015 that “the Arabs are flocking in droves to the ballots… the Left’s organizations are busing them!”
Netanyahu, in short, is eating what he cooked, and so are we.
Amotz Asa-El’s bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), is a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s leadership from antiquity to modernity.