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Netanyahu in search of a war

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Abdel Bari Atwan

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the hawks in his fascist government are looking for a war to help them overcome their domestic crises and international isolation. That is why they gave the green light to their army and security forces to storm the al-Aqsa mosque compound, assault the people keeping vigil there, force them to leave, and arrest 400 of them to clear the way for an invasion by settlers celebrating Passover.

Netanyahu will doubtless get what he is looking for. But he will pay a very high price, perhaps higher than in the May 2021 ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ campaign when thousands of missiles came hurtling down on Tel Aviv and the Gaza Envelope settlements, sending millions of settlers into shelters, closing down Israel’s airports, and cutting it off from the outside world for the first time since the Nakba.

The initial Palestinian response to the storming of al-Aqsa was swift. Twenty missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip at the settlement of Sderot, hitting factories and causing considerable material damage. The much-lauded ‘Iron Domes’ failed to intercept them, and if they had been fired during working hours there would have been many casualties too.

Those 20 missiles were merely a warning. Jerusalem is a red line, and assaulting worshippers and defiling sacred places during the holy month of Ramadan is a crime than cannot go unpunished.

Netanyahu is playing with fire, and could end up burning not just his fingers but himself and his government. In May 2021 he went begging to US President Joe Biden to intercede with Egypt to broker a halt to hostilities. If another battle breaks out for the same reason (arms and settler invasions of al-Aqsa), which is more than likely with Passover approaching, it will be much harder to stop. It could turn into a broader regional conflagration in which thousands of missiles rain down on the occupier state and its settlers, whether from Gaza or other unexpected fronts.

This paper’s reporters have spoken to large numbers of people from all walks of life in Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the 1948 areas. They were virtually unanimous about their determination to give their all to defend al-Aqsa and liberate the land of Palestine.

The days when Israeli warplanes could bomb the Palestinian people with impunity are over. So are the days when they sought salvation from Arab governments or their supine and submissive Arab League. They rely solely on themselves and their fighting brigades that have made Israel’s ‘five star’ occupation more costly, deprived its settlers of security and stability, and spurred a big wave of capital flight and reverse migration.

The days and weeks to come will be marked not only by steadfastness but also retaliatory missile strikes and targeted resistance operations. And they may not be confined to the occupied territories but come from elsewhere in the region too. The pressure has been mounting inexorably and is close to the point of explosion, with Netanyahu and his gang of fascists lighting the fuse.

The Palestinian people — to quote the Libyan anti-colonial resistance hero Omar al-Mukhtar — have only two choices: victory or victory. Just as resistance in Afghanistan and Iraq defeated the US, the mightiest power in history, and forced it to flee in ignominy, the Palestinian people will inevitably win out. The occupier state might not outlast its 80th anniversary.