Netanyahu Unwilling to Test Hamas Preparedness, Fearful of Humiliation: Canadian Scholar
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu avoids testing the Hamas movement’s military preparedness against an Israel ground invasion of Gaza because it could produce humiliation and domestic backlash, a Canadian scholar said.
“Netanyahu would rather not test the Hamas military preparedness against an Israel ground invasion of Gaza, and he does not want to find out if Hamas has more and better rockets. Not at this time, because it could produce humiliation and domestic backlash,” Denis Rancourt told Tasnim.
“Netanyahu favors his resilience and permanence. He will avoid circumstances that are risky and that he does not control. With certainty and the status quo he wins,” he added.
Denis Rancourt is a former professor of physics at the University of Ottawa. He has published more than 100 academic papers. He was a member of Ottawa-Carleton Institute for Physics and the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre. He is the author of the book "Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism."
Tasnim: Head of Israel’s far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister, protesting Israel’s “too-soft policy” on Hamas. Liberman took his five-member party out of the ruling coalition and called for new elections. Leaving the government with 61 seats in the Knesset, barely a majority out of 120, this stirred discussion among politicians and observers about whether Israel would have to go to elections now or wait until November 2019, the requisite date according to law. Can Benjamin Netanyahu keep the coalition together? And if not, can he win the election and gain a fifth term as prime minister?
Rancourt: The law of the government of Israel prescribes a set election date every four years. There is also a provision whereby the Knesset is entitled to express non-confidence in the government. This is done by a resolution following specific rules of procedure.
Parties and their coalitions that set into motion such a premature change of government risk backlash of public sentiment in the temporary instability or uncertainty that results. The risk is greatest in periods of heightened tensions against the occupied Palestinians in the apartheid state.
Therefore, most parties in a ruling coalition normally calculate that the negative risks arising from dissolution, including the loss of being part of the ruling entity, are greater than potential benefits. For this reason, a majority of one seat can be fairly robust and could carry the ruling coalition to the next election.
Seen in this light, Liberman’s maneuver appears to be more ideological and resentful rather than strategic because his party is not likely to find a home in a stronger ruling coalition. In that sense, Liberman’s move is intended to test the water of an even more aggressive Israel and to move the norm closer to an ever more violent suppression of the Palestinians, rather than primarily intended as a likely increase in leverage within a new ruling coalition.
Liberman’s move appears to be a political expression of a visceral desire to crush the occupied resisting population once and for all, by whatever violent escalation is deemed necessary. The move, in a sense, reflects an abandonment of Palestinians by powerful regional nations, such as Saudi Arabia which has become more aligned with the USA and Israel in the desire to quell all Palestinian desires for liberation and statehood.
Liberman’s antics are also aligned with the bloodthirsty Israeli Jewish population. A recent poll reported in The Washington Post has 75 percent of Israelis seeing a cease-fire following rocket attacks (rather than a large-scale military slaughter in Gaza) as “giving in to terror”.
In my reading, I see Netanyahu holding on until the November 2019 election and then winning a fifth term. His skills and connections are unmatched, and the antics of Liberman could end up helping him. But it is a lively high-skates competition and anything can happen; except of course respect for international law, the Geneva Conventions and such irrelevant considerations. The Israeli genocide will not let up. That could never happen from the inside.
Tasnim: According to reports, Netanyahu has sought to avoid Gaza and prioritizes the status quo. He wasn’t looking for escalation or to use military force as an electoral prop, because if Israel got bogged down in an extended fight or Israeli civilians died as a result of Hamas retaliatory rocket fire, then his credibility would be shot. What do you think?
Rancourt: Yes, I think that is correct. Netanyahu would rather not test the Hamas military preparedness against an Israel ground invasion of Gaza, and he does not want to find out if Hamas has more and better rockets. Not at this time, because it could produce humiliation and domestic backlash.
The signs seem to be that Netanyahu will limit himself to cowardly and unrelenting airstrikes on civilian targets, based on limited intelligence extorted from collaborators and gleaned from remote surveillance.
Also, a large-scale attack on Gaza can only strengthen non-aligned players who oppose Saudi Arabia, namely Turkey and Iran, and soon to be followed by the recovering and strengthening nations of Syria, Iraq, Yemen….
Tasnim: Why do you think Netanyahu does not favor early elections?
Rancourt: Netanyahu favors his resilience and permanence. He will avoid circumstances that are risky and that he does not control. With certainty and the status quo he wins.
On the other hand, Hamas is also a player and it may be forced to respond to the continuous Israeli air attacks. Hamas is extraordinarily resilient in the face of such a powerful, violent and determined enemy. It must constantly struggle to maintain its cohesive and structured resistance. It must satisfy its militants and the population that it protects and from which it derives strength. Each of its actions is generally optimal and calculated in this challenge yet largely unpredictable from the outside.
Tasnim: Contrary to popular belief, the United States is not a major factor in Israeli elections as the ruling coalition is breaking up and still no help from the US to Netanyahu. What is your take on this?
Rancourt: My guess is that the USA has high quality and current information about domestic Israeli politics, including directly from the source. The USA supports Netanyahu by supporting the Israeli military apparatus that is the USA’s main asset in Israel. As long as there is influx of wealth and support for the whole Israeli economy in the form of military “aid” from the USA, then the structures in place that manage that system to the benefit of the USA and the USA elite classes (including the Israel lobby) are supported. Netanyahu is the orchestra director. He is supported by support for the orchestra, which makes a music that is a poison for the occupied Palestinians and for all regional state actors that seek independence from the USA sphere.