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Rediff.com  » News » 'Netanyahu cannot eradicate Hamas'

'Netanyahu cannot eradicate Hamas'

By ARCHANA MASIH
Last updated on: November 06, 2023 13:53 IST
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'Assassinating the leaders of an organisation, destroying their homes, buildings and institutions are not 'wiping out' an organisation.'
'Genociding the Lebanese or the Palestinians is something that Israel cannot technically do, let alone morally afford.'

IMAGE: Israeli soldiers and tanks take position inside the Gaza strip, according to the Israeli Defense Forces, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on November 5, 2023. Photograph: IDF/Handout via Reuters

"Western public opinion is questioning Israel's brutality a little more every day," says French, English and Arabic-speaking academic Aurelie Daher.

"Soon, the Israeli government is going to be under too much pressure from its Western allies. News from the ground is proving the Israeli army is having a hard time in Gaza," says Dr Daher who teaches political science and the sociology of conflicts at the University of Paris-Dauphine.

The professor has held postdoctoral fellow position at the University of Oxford and a postdoctoral research associate position at Princeton University.

Her work focuses on Hezbollah, the Shiites, Lebanese and Middle Eastern politics.

In an e-mail interview with Rediff.com's Archana Masih, Dr Daher discusses the Israel-Palestine conflict, the response from the Arab world and what it will take for the war to end.

 

Hamas's Ghazi Hamad's assertion that there will be many more October 7 attacks till Israel is destroyed gives the Israeli government and its far right constituents the justification for the carnage in Gaza.
In your opinion, can Hamas be wiped out as Binaymin Netanyahu has vowed?

We have to be careful with public declarations in times of war. They can sometimes be occasions for exaggerated or simplified slogans.

Binyamin Netanyahu cannot technically eradicate Hamas. The purpose of his declarations remains first and foremost to boost the Israeli people's morale.

Worth noticing is that it is not the first time that an Israeli government officially promises the utter eradication of the enemy as one of their military objectives.

In 2006, Ehud Olmert's administration promised the Israelis and the West to exterminate Lebanese Hezbollah 'in less than a week'. After 33 days and nights of continuous bombardments over Lebanon, the Israelis had to accept their goals were not met.

Assassinating the leaders of an organisation, destroying their homes, buildings and institutions, are not 'wiping out' an organisation. There is only one way in practice to 'wipe out' Hamas or Hezbollah, which is to kill the entire population they are part of.

Genociding the Lebanese or the Palestinians, that is to say -- and that is something that Israel cannot technically do, let alone morally afford.

What is the end solution to this war? Netanyahu appears to have stepped a few steps back from the decimation of Hamas to linking a ceasefire to the release of all hostages.
What will it take for the war to end, especially if both sides remain intransigent?

From an Israeli point of view, the aim in continuing the war is to cause enough casualties so the Palestinians do not engage in a similar initiative in the future.

It is also a matter of ego and pride, where the whole image of Israel as an undefeatable nation is at stake. This stubbornness will probably be the surest road to the end of the conflict.

Western public opinions are questioning Israel's brutality a little more every day. Soon, the Israeli government is going to be under too much pressure from its Western allies. News from the ground is proving the Israeli army is having a hard time in Gaza.

For Israel, it is a matter of time now, and the stake is to inflict as much damage as possible to the Palestinians before being forced into putting an end to the tragedy.

IMAGE: Palestinians search for casualties at the site of Israeli strikes on the Magazi refugee camp in the central Gaza strip, November 5, 2023. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Why has the Arab world been largely mute, apart from odd gestures like Jordan withdrawing its ambassador from Israel?
There has been no stringent condemnation of the Israeli bombing of Gaza.
What is holding back the Arab leaders? Is it US diplomacy and pressure?

There have been comments and condemnations from a lot of Arab countries.

The ones who remained more discreet are the ones who have been engaged these past few years in a normalisation process with Israel.

It is easy to understand why the situation is complicated for them. It is not about the US. It is about the populations of these countries who are massively pro-Palestinian, and it is about their position amongst the other Arab countries.

Is there a belief in the Arab world that the Palestinian cause is a lost one, not worth squandering long term strategic goals?

Arab populations in general remain very supportive of the Palestinian cause. It is the position of their governments that sometimes is not in line with this sentiment.

Everyone in the Middle East is aware that helping the Palestinians in getting their own State needs both American and European pressure on Israel, but also that neither the US nor most European countries are willing to go with this option currently.

IMAGE: Protestors gather near Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's residence in Jerusalem, November 4, 2023. Photograph: Ammar Awad/Reuters

Do you get a sense that for Netanyahu this war is personal, the only way he can stay on in power is if the IDF can kill the Hamas military leadership?
Regardless of how the war turns out, is the Netanyahu era in Israeli politics over?

Netanyahu is in a very uncomfortable situation. He knows his career has come to an end. He is accountable before the Israeli people, and it sounds like most of them are unhappy with how he is dealing with the situation -- and there is most probably no good news in this regard to hope for.

In perspective, one has to remember that, in 2006, after the 33-day war on Lebanon, the Ehud Olmert government was investigated by a special commission, the Winograd Commission, as Israeli authorities wanted to understand the reasons for a noticeable debacle of their army.

Ehud Olmert resigned in 2007 from his position with only 2% of support in the polls. Amir Peretz, head of the Labour party and minister of defence, had to quit both positions too.

And Dan Haloutz, military chief of staff, had to resign and suffer further judicial investigation, as it was discovered then that he had sold all the stock options he owned on the Tel Aviv stock market just a few hours before launching the war on Lebanon.

It is impossible that Netanyahu has forgotten that.

How is the war going to play out among the proponents of Islamic jihad in the Middle East?

What you call 'Islamic jihad' is a vast group of sometimes very different organisations. Each one of them will react in their own way, bring the Palestinian case into their narratives depending on their own rationality.

IMAGE: Iranians listen to Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's speech on November 3, 2023 on a screen at a gathering in support of Palestinians in Tehran, Iran. Photograph: WANA (West Asia News Agency) via Reuters

What are your observations about Hasan Nasarallah's speech on Friday?
Do you think Hezbollah's reverses in the 2006 war have compelled it to take a more realistic view of this war that it may offer more lip support than actual military engagement?

Hezbollah won the 2006 war. Everybody in the Arab world, the West, even Israel, after a while, acknowledged that.

This fact is actually the reason why the Palestinians in 2023 copied Hezbollah's 2006 strategies and tactics, and that is what made their initiative so efficient and their strike so strong.

The only difficult point Hezbollah had to address in 2006 was to be taken by surprise with the scope and brutality of the Israeli initiative, which they at that time did not expect.

That definitely prevents them today from engaging in some very serious face-a-face with Israel. But that does not prevent them from helping the Palestinians in other ways.

What happens after the war ends?
Will a consortium of Arab States take on the responsibility of governing Gaza, nurturing a moderate Palestinian leadership ready to take over when the time is ready? Or is that too far-fetched?

This option is pure fantasy.

First, no Arab government is into such an idea.

Second, no Israeli government will ever let an Arab political authority run any territory that Israel occupies.

Third, I am not sure the need is to 'grow a moderate Palestinian Authority': It already exists, it is called the Palestinian Authority, and Israel has not showed any interest these last years in working seriously with them.

Fourth, the socio-economic hardship of the people of Gaza under Israeli blockade is a fact. Maybe the solution is in addressing that point first.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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ARCHANA MASIH / Rediff.com