Fear of peace – Daily Pioneer

Posted By on December 4, 2020

For politicians like Netanyahu, peace delegitimises their political appeal and instead provocation, tension and violence strengthen the same

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Bibi Netanyahu is a stereotypical Israeli politician, who has served in the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Hailing from a military family that includes elder brother Yonatan Netanyahu, who commanded the daring Operation Entebbe and became its only Israeli fatality, Benjamin himself was a team leader in the Sayeret Matkal (Special Forces Unit) and took part in multiple covert operations in Syria like Operation Gift and Operation Isotope. He was also shot in the shoulder during an anti-hijack operation. But today, Benjamin Netanyahu is also a great political survivor and the longest-serving Israeli Prime Minister (1996-1999, 2009-till date). The politician par excellence also has an unmatched CV in escaping tight spots. Foremost among them has been surviving the difficult tenures of former US Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (both of them were not policy hawks), surviving sex tapes, indifferent colleagues, accusations of media manipulation, ongoing criminal trials for fraud and bribery, and above all, facing yet another potentially complicated relationship with the incoming American administration under Joe Biden.

But it is yet another illustrious Israeli war hero and fellow-Sayeret Matkal colleague of Netanyahus, Ehud Barak, who throws insights into the mind of the political escape-artist. Barak himself is the former Israeli Chief of the General Staff and the most decorated soldier in Israeli history. Later, he replaced Netanyahu as the Prime Minister in1999. Barak, who has worked along with Netanyahu in the military and the Knesset, claims, Netanyahu has shown that no legal regulations really interest him and given the legal entanglements surrounding his fate, he understands that he is going nowhere, and his priority will be anything that will get him out of a trial. Barak assesses that a desperate, amoral and reckless Netanyahu could create internal and external circumstances that would galvanise his political popularity and make him irreplaceable. Barak is joined by over 300 retired officers from the Israeli Army, Police, Shin Bet Security Service, Mossad and multiple former IDF Chiefs of Staff like Gabi Ashkenazi, Moshe Yaalon and the temporarily aligned Benny Gaantz. Years ago, as the leader of the Opposition,Netanyahu had led infamous protests against the then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (who had just signed the Oslo Peace Accord), where he walked at the head of a mock funeral procession, featuring an empty black coffin and chants of Death to Rabin. Days later, Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an Israeli opposed to the accord and that marked the return of extremist hardliners, among whom Netanyahu has been the most dominant player on the scene.

Now, Netanyahu has been bracing for a post-Donald Trump administration. The nomination of Anthony Blinken as the Secretary of State has accelerated his worries. Blinken is a known supporter of rapprochement with Iran, as also a rare critic of the controversial move to shift the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Netanyahu realises the inevitability of the looming change in the dynamics, as also of the very narrow window of a few weeks before Trump is eased out of the White House. Frenetic backdoor activities are in full swing to secure positions in the chessboard of the Middle East, among which was the not-so-secretive meeting between Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and Netanyahu at Neom. Beyond public posturing, political rhetoric and official denials, both Riyadh and Tel Aviv are more strategically aligned than ever before, and between them, the irreconcilable sectarian angularity of Iran is a unifying factor. The Iranians are militarily challenging the Saudis through their proxies in Yemen (Houthi rebels) and rallying against the Saudi-supported Sunni militia in the Syrian-Iraqi swathes whereas the Iran-backed Hamas in the West Bank and the co-sectarian Shia-Hezbollah in Lebanon are taking on the Israelis. Iran is the common dread and, therefore, the essential playground for accusations, intrigues and covert operations.

During a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in 2018, Netanyahu had spoken about and stood before the image of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Pointing to the image, Netanyahu had chillingly warned, Remember that name, Fakhrizadeh! Last week when Fakhrizadeh was assassinated by unknown gunmen, the Iranians were unequivocal in blaming, the mercenaries of the oppressive Zionist regime, referring to Netanyahus Government. The timing was eerily ominous and Iranian President Hasan Rouhani alluded to the desperation of the very limited window of Presidential transition in the US when he said, the enemies are experiencing stressful weeks.

It has been acknowledged by the international watchdog agency, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that while Fakhrizadeh was indeed the head of the Iranian nuclear programme, there were no alarm bells in the Iranian reactivation status as yet despite the unilateral pullout by the US from the Iran nuclear deal. Legally also, Iran was no longer bound to restrain its nuclear programme after the US had reneged on the deal, despite assurances from IAEA that Iran had fully complied with all commitments. If anything, Trump-Netanyahu had upped the ante with avoidable and provocative steps like killing the revered General Qasem Soleimani, who had played a pivotal role in destroying the dangerous edifice of the ISIL Caliphate in Iraq-Syria.

The killing of Fakhrizadeh cannot possibly make any material impact on the Iranian nuclear preparedness as it is not dependent on any individual, in any case, and the motives could only be purely political. This act looks intended to deliberately worsen the relations to draw retaliatory action from Iran, thereby prematurely stalling any thawing opportunities that are presumably forthcoming with the Biden administration. Details of Trump discussing a possible military strike against Iran just before the Presidential elections are already doing the rounds. From the same political playbook, heightened political tension between Tel Aviv and Tehran can also help shore up crucial and invaluable nationalistic fervour in favour of the much-cornered Netanyahu. For politicians like him, peace delegitimises their political appeal and instead, provocation, tension and violence, strengthen the same.

(The writer, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands)

Originally posted here:

Fear of peace - Daily Pioneer

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