Provoking a conflict with Gaza led to the deaths of 32 Palestinians. But, was the real objective the creation of an emergency government so Netanyahu can remain in power?
Jeff HalperÂ is the co-founder and director of ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. He was born in 1946 in Minnesota and emigrated to Israel in 1973. Since then he has been a tireless advocate for justice and civil rights for all Israelis and Palestinians. He spent ten years as a community worker in Jerusalem aiding low-income Mizrahi families. He co-founded ICAHD in 1997 to help resist Israelâs strategy of house demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He is the author of three books,Â Between Redemption and Revival: The Jewish Yishuv in Jerusalem in the Nineteenth Century,Â An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Possession, Redeeming Israel, andÂ Obstacles to Peace: A Reframing of the Palestinian â Israeli Conflict. In 2006 Dr. Halper was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, citing ICAHDâs work âto liberate both the Palestinian and the Israeli people from the yoke of structural violenceâ and âto build equality between their people by recognizing and celebrating their common humanity.â
MARC STEINER:Â Welcome to The Real News Network. Iâm Marc Steiner. Great to have you all with us once again.
I have to say this: Benjamin Netanyahu may be one of the shrewdest politicians on the face of the earth. He appointed far-right Naftali Bennett Minister of Defense just after he launched an air attack that killed Baha Abu al-Ataâwho is the leader of Islamic Jihad we thinkâin Gaza, along with his wife Asmaa. That kept Bennett with him politically, which was a move on his part. And then it turned out that al-Ata was really not that much of a leader at all, some people write.
And then he bombed the offices of Islamic Jihad in Damascus, and then launched a bombing campaign on Gaza after the Islamic Jihad launched an ineffectual rocket assault on Israel. The attack in Gaza killed 32 Palestinians, including 11 children. And another 111 people were wounded. Okay, so that doesnât make him brilliant. But his next steps politically inside of Israel that seem to be part of his grand strategy after all, is and was brilliant. And here is where his brilliant manipulation and strategic thinking begins to keep himself in power.
To help us figure all that out, weâre about to talk with Jeff Halper; Jeff Halper joins us once again. Heâs an anthropologist, former head of the Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions, and his latest book is War Amongst the People, Israel, the Palestinians, and Global Pacification. And he is currently involved with the People Yes Network, which promotes strategic coordination among left groups globally. And Jeff, welcome. Good to have you with us.
JEFF HALPER:Â Good to be back.
MARC STEINER:Â Always good to talk to you. I meant what I said at the very top here. I mean, whatever you think about Netanyahu and his politics and what he represents, the man is really brilliant, and he knows how to stay in power.
JEFF HALPER:Â Thatâs right.
MARC STEINER:Â So here he has his opposition, Benny Gantz, who might have won a few more votes than he has. He has a week to set up the government. So paint this story for us at this moment about what Netanyahu is doing to set himself up, so he doesnât go to jail and can stay in power.
JEFF HALPER:Â Well, thatâs all the manipulations, of course. And so Gaza and the Palestinians, as usual, are simply the vehicles for Netanyahuâs political campaigns, essentially. The people of Gaza and Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not pose an existential threat to Israel. And for years and years, theyâve tried even to get into some kind of a peace agreement with Israel. They even agreed to the two-state solution, years ago. It was called the Prisonerâs Stock. But weâre talking about a situation of controlled bias that serves Netanyahu in Israel in different ways. Controlled violence, of course, it continues the pretext of keeping the occupation going because theyâre always attacking us, so we always have to defend ourselves.
Controlled violence also, of course, blames the victim so that we canât be held accountable for anything, and theyâre to blame and that gives us a free rein to do anything we want to in the occupied territories or politically. It also keeps the laboratory going, because donât forget Israel tests all kinds of new weapons systems, security systems, surveillance systems, drones in particular, in Gaza. Gaza is like a little laboratory, which is part of a larger West Bank laboratory. So for all of those reasons, of course, the Gazi is very useful for Israel. But in terms of internal politics, itâs also useful because again, it can be turned on and turned off according to the needs of Netanyahu.
So now that heâs in this competition with Gantz, heâs trying to create a situation in which, and heâs said this many times, that security situation and such; that we canât afford a new government. And certainly this is the boss subtext, the very important subject, certainly not a government that would rely on the Arabs in Israel. Because any government that Gantz would set up would have to have the support, at least half the support of the joint Arab list. And so by demonizing the Arabs, and of course by creating the conflict in Gaza, what Netanyahu was doing and saying, âWhat youâre going to have Arabs in the government at a time of war, theyâre our enemies fighting us in Gaza and creating an absolutely impossible situation for Gantz.â So thereâs all kinds of layered levels. Youâre absolutely right. He is a brilliant manipulator.
MARC STEINER:Â So in taking a step further, I mean letâs take two parts here. A, what just happened in Gaza, I mean 32 people were killed, many of them innocents. I mean the father driving off on his motorcycle and the visuals were put out by some of the middle Eastern Arab media driving up to his house. Heâs blown up. His two kids were blown up with him, but heâs just coming home to say hello to his kids. And it was a pretty horrendous attack that took place in Gaza, but many innocent people killed, 111 people wounded.
So that in itself creates this kind of terror inside of Gaza, with Hamas it seems is saying âWeâre out of this, weâre not part of this.â So heâs neutralized them. But now it seems inside of Israel is, explain this to us, I mean Benny Gantz was going to form a coalition with Avigdor Lieberman on the right, from the Russian group on the right, the Russian Jews on the ride. And then he had the joint list on the left saying, at least, we passively support them, but not if he supports Gaza. So the Gaza incursions, which means that that was something else that Netanyahu must have planned ahead of time, knowing that that could split that coalition as well, to make it even more difficult for Gantz to form a government. Am I right or wrong about that?
JEFF HALPER:Â Well, it can be. But not far off. Thereâs nothing here thatâs by chance. `In other words, itâs in the press in Israel that Abu al-Ata was schedule to be assassinated two years ago. In other words, the approval went through the Israeli government and the military 32 years ago. So in other words, for different reasons they might want it to get rid of him, but certainly it was very convenient to get rid of him and particularly at this time when the negotiations are so keen, and you want to make it impossible for Gantz and link up to the Arabs in Israel.
The Arabs in Israel are being portrayed by Netanyahu, not as in training citizens, but as the enemy. I mean thereâs no difference in it. And I was speaking between Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Ayman Odeh from the joint Arab list. And so I think the timing canât be ignored, of course, for this and donât forget also, this isnât an isolated incident. Weâve been talking now about a year and a half or more, whatâs called the March of return in Gaza. There have been almost 400 Palestinians killed, and more than 3,600 Palestinians wounded, in very different and very crippled in many cases. In Gaza. So, in other words, this is all art of the controlled violence. Itâs controlled politically, itâs controlled in terms of managing Gaza and itâs also controlled in terms of Netanyahuâs immediate political needs.
MARC STEINER:Â And then didnât he also kind of bring in one of the leaders of the joint list and kind of set him up in a conversation that he released? Wasnât that part of his way of getting in between Gantz and potentially building a coalition?
JEFF HALPER:Â Yeah. Yeah. I mean, let me put it this way. Yes, but you know Netanyahu really is brilliant, but let me introduce another thought to this whole thing and that is that I think for everything else, I think heâs finished politically that Netanyahu.
MARC STEINER:Â You think heâs finished?
JEFF HALPER:Â I believe he is going to be indicted, I think. And even if not, people are tired. Even in the Likud, theyâre tired of him. Gideon Saâar and other people are already beginning to challenge him. So heâs finished. Now, what is true, we have to keep this in mind is he is a brilliant manipulator. His English is great. He knows everybody from Modi, to the Chinese, to Bolsonaro, to Trump to everybody, and heâs set up very important right wing coalitions in the world. Heâs got a big plan, a big strategy, and heâs managed to keep this whole thing together, all this all these years. Because the occupation is not very popular in the world, but heâs managed to hold it all together.
The next guy that comes in, whether itâs Gantz or Gideon Saâar whoâs going to probably take over, or anybody else, is not going to have those skills. His English isnât going to be so good. Youâll be a local Israeli politician. You wonât know anybody else. You wonât really care that much. And I think in a way after Netanyahu, this whole thing could start to unravel. And Iâm looking forward to all kinds of opportunities to finish things when heâs gone because he really isâyouâre rightâhe really is a brilliant manipulator.
MARC STEINER:Â Itâs amazing. I was going to show that the very top, but I meant to do that, but let me show it now. This is just to conclude with what he did in Gaza. This is his press conference when he talked about what was about to do. Letâs look at, just for a moment, I want a quick thought from you on this:
SPEAKER:Â In the past year, this arch terrorist was the main generator of terrorism from the Strip. He initiated, planned, and carried out many attacks. He fired hundreds of rockets at communities in the Gaza periphery, whose suffering we havenât ignored. He was in the midst of crossing additional attacks these very days. He was a ticking bomb.
MARC STEINER:Â So I meant to show this at the top and I apologize but this, because even this, afterwards was shown a ticking bomb. Heâs killing somebody because what he might do, and everything Iâve read in the European press and other press, is that this guy wasnât that big a deal to start with. I mean that these manipulations are sort of there and ended with how you were describing what he was doing inside of Israel proper.
JEFF HALPER:Â Look, on the one hand, heâs been ticking for two years now. I mean how long do you tick. Again, they improved his killing two years ago. So you have to look at that timing as well. But in addition, what the horse is missing from the whole discussion is any kind of political horizon. And this is the conflict management part, that the international community participates in an allows, and that is that everything is reduced to âTheyâre terrorists. Theyâre throwing missiles,â and in the sense, they have a right to resist. Nobody talks about occupation. That word is never, ever, ever used and very seldom internationally in these things. There are 50 years of occupation, 20 years or 10, more than 10 years, 15 years of a siege impoverishment.
If the UN says Gaza is going to be uninhabitable next year already, thereâs no water to drink, thereâs no employment. Israel is destroyed the infrastructure several times, killed thousands and thousands of people. So in this situation, in a way this particular attack, might have a certain strategic and tactical meaningfulness Netanyahu has put in a wider context. And we have to understand that this is a violent state terrorism, against the Palestinian people, has been going on now for more than 50 years in the occupied territory. And more than 125 years for the entire country.
So we have to always, always put these things within the wider political perspective and understand that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, together with all the other Palestinian factions agreeing years ago, to a two state solution, which is really a very pro-Israel solution, theyâve tried to sue for peace and Israel has always said no. And what Netanyahu tries to do is use these attacks to blame the victim, to make the Palestinians think that the terrorists attacking us. And we lose the whole bigger picture of Israelâs attacks, of besiegement, of occupation, of semi-colonialism, and the fact that weâre talking about Palestinian resistance, weâre not talking about Palestinian attacks on Israel. And so I think we have to keep that wider context all the time in front of us.
MARC STEINER:Â Well, Jeff. However, as this unfolds, we see what happens with Netanyahu and the indictment, and whether Gantz takes over or someone else takes over for Netanyahu, weâll come back to you to see what this all is. Thank you for the work you do and thanks for joining us once again.
JEFF HALPER:Â Thanks for having me.
MARC STEINER:Â Always good to talk to you, Jeff. And Iâm Marc Steiner here for The Real News Network. Thank you all for joining us. Let us know what you think. Take care.
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