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Israel Inches Closer to All-Out Regional War as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Fights for Political Survival

‘Netanyahu is really the biggest danger to the state of Israel’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference on June 8, 2024. Photo: Associated Press / Alamy
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference on 8 June 2024. Photo: AP/Alamy

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The Middle East is sitting on a powder keg with Israel preparing for a war with Lebanon, simultaneously as its assault on Gaza continues unabated and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) fuel a broadening third front in the volatile Israeli-occupied West Bank.

As Israeli fighter jets continually roar overhead in Jerusalem and Ramallah on their way to carry out bombing sorties over southern Lebanon, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fight for his political survival on various levels is dovetailing with factional infighting in the Israeli Knesset, Israel’s burning borders, and the possibility of a regional conflagration.

Mustafa Barghouti, Leader of the Palestinian National Initiative party, said he was afraid that Netanyahu would proceed with a major attack on Lebanon despite the warnings of America and others.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, centre, wears a protective vest and helmet as he receives a security briefing with commanders and soldiers in the northern Gaza Strip, in December 2023. Photo: AP/Alamy

“Netanyahu doesn’t care about Israelis, the Israeli hostages in Gaza or avoiding a regional war,” Barghouti told Byline Times. “He cares only about his political survival. He is facing five corruption cases and he knows that when the war ends that is the end of his political career and a high chance of him going to jail.”

Israel plans to wind down its Gaza operation over the next few weeks in preparation for moving troops to the north of Israel.

The Jewish state has already prepared for mass burials in Israel following Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah’s warning that, if Israel went ahead with its threat of a major military operation in Lebanon, the Shi’ite organisation would respond without limits.

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The IDF also carried out a military assessment last week in preparation for a possible war with Lebanon.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant met recently with US officials in what is reported to be coordination with Washington over an Israeli military assault on Lebanon, the war in Gaza, and to gauge American support – receiving mixed signals in response.

Netanyahu is really the biggest danger to the state of Israel.

Gonen Ben Itzhak, former member of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency

While the US said that it would support Israel with militarily hardware and intelligence, without putting American soldiers on the ground, US State Department officials warned that there was a high probability that Iran would get involved and that there was no guarantee that Israel’s defence system would offer protection against the barrage of rockets from Hezbollah.

Barghouti said that Gallant was also pushing for war because he too bears responsibility for the Israeli intelligence failure that preceded Hamas’ 7 October 2023 attack on Israel, and that all of this would come to light when the fighting stops.

Netanyahu is facing enormous criticism from ordinary Israelis who want new elections and his Government brought down. The families of Israeli hostages languishing in Gaza are particularly angry, and have repeatedly accused him of missing several chances for a prisoner exchange with Hamas.

People protest against Netanyahu’s Government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group, in Tel Aviv, Israel, on 8 June 2024. Photo: AP/Alamy

Not only is Netanyahu continuing to fall out with his coalition partners, and the Israeli public, he has also been openly contradicted by Israeli reservists and by Government-appointed IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari, who said the belief that the IDF could defeat Hamas in Gaza was not possible.

Major General in the Reserves, Dr Hanan Shay, spoke strongly against Israel’s conduct in the war in Gaza earlier this month, and stated that it would not succeed in defeating Hamas.

A former member of Israel’s domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet, Gonen Ben Itzhak, said that Netanyahu had previously propped up Hamas with financial support while preventing any possible peace process.

“Netanyahu is really the biggest danger to the state of Israel and, believe me, I arrested some of the biggest terrorists during the second Intifada,” the 53-year-old ex-spy told Agence France-Presse, referring to the Palestinian uprising of 2000-2005.

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As Netanyahu fields a barrage of criticism from every direction, Israel’s most right-wing Government in the Jewish state’s history continues to face increasing international condemnation, with investigations underway by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and scathing reports issued by UN organisations and other rights groups about human rights abuses in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The US administration has strongly supported Israeli militarily but, politically, there is growing dissatisfaction from members within President Joe Biden’s team, and other Government employees, over Israel’s alleged human rights abuses and the failure of Washington to leverage its influence effectively or to criticise when necessary.

Two US Air Force servicemen, Larry Hebert and Juan Bettancourt, this month asked to leave the US military, requesting that they be granted conscientious objector status over Washington’s support for the Israeli military in Gaza. These are the Americans that went public. However, other US Government employees have voiced concerns over the Gaza war, but remained anonymous due to fears of losing their jobs.

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Five hundred employees from 40 US agencies signed a letter last year protesting against Biden’s Israel policy and voicing their discontent over Israel’s military campaign in Gaza.

The Israeli premier’s increasing political isolation has led to his growing dependency on the right-wing extremists in his Government, including Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leading to another increasingly bloody front for Israel – violence in the West Bank which has largely gone unreported.

Smotrich is on record calling for the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank. However, his recent statement calling for the annexation of the Israeli-occupied territory, bypassing the Israeli civil administration which administers the area – as a way of preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state there – is pushing simmering tensions to boiling point.

Smotrich already stoked the fires by withholding a significant portion of Palestinian Authority (PA) tax funds, accusing the PA of paying money to the families of dead or incarcerated “terrorists”.

He also accused the PA of working against Israel in the international arena and called for Israeli banks to cut off cooperation with the PA – a cooperation necessary under global finance laws.

The World Bank warned that the economic pressure on the PA, as well as the Gaza war, could lead to its collapse. This warning was repeated by Norway’s foreign ministry.

They are motivated by revenge, not by logic.

Ofer Cassif, Israeli Knesset member

Skyrocketing unemployment in the West Bank, coupled with daily violent raids by settlers, backed and protected by Israeli soldiers, has led to deaths, injuries and dozens of Palestinian communities being driven off their land with their crops destroyed, their homes damaged and burned, and their livestock stolen or killed.

In early June, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on the dire situation in the West Bank.

Nightly Israeli military raids into West Bank cities, towns and villages have also increased dramatically leading to many Palestinian deaths and injuries, with reports of significant deliberate punitive damage to infrastructure and the brutal mistreatment of those arrested.

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Ofer Cassif, an Israeli Knesset member, and member of the Jewish -Arab party Hadash, said the chances of a war with Lebanon in the near future were high.

“It’s not only Netanyahu and the extremists in the Government who are pushing for a war but many other Government ministers, even those in the opposition,” Cassif told Byline Times.

“They are motivated by revenge, not by logic. They are determined to teach those in Gaza and those in Lebanon that whoever attacks Israel will pay a heavy price. The only chance is sufficient international diplomatic pressure, otherwise the bloodshed and destruction will be enormous.”


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