“Tug-of-war” around Netanyahu

“Tug-of-war” around Netanyahu

Israel and its aggressions against Palestine as well as its interventionism and cross border violence against the region keep on dominating the global headlines. The government of Netanyahu has not only kept on bombarding the Gaza Strip for 7 months, it is conducting also military attacks from Lebanon to Syria and Iran.

Iran has responded to the recent bombing of its consulate in Damascus, Syria, with an own missile attack on Israel. Most recently, an attack on Iran has occurred, which is widely blamed on Israel as a response to that.

How does the population of Israel consider these? Does the Israeli state apparatus stand behind a further escalation with Iran?

I asked these questions to Ofer Cassif. Cassif is member of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, for the Communist Party of Israel on the list of Hadash. He is an outspoken critic of the Netanyahu government and was recently forced out of parliament building for having called a “war crime” the Israeli military operation on the Al Shifa hospital in Gaza. He has also loudly and practically opposed settler violence and demands an end to what he calls “Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands”. Right-wing parties demanded his Knesset membership to be cancelled altogether but did not receive the necessary vote numbers in the parliament.

The interview was conducted after the Iranian attack on Israel, but before the Israeli response to it.

The fundamental issue of sovereignty – including the Palestinian one

The Iranian attack on Israel. How was this perceived first in the population? How did the population of Israel react to that?

Well, of course, the majority in Israel, and let alone the government, the fascist government, consider it as an assault against Israel, which it was. Let’s be very clear. Any violation of the sovereignty of one state by another is something that is not acceptable. And Israel as a sovereign state has its right to exist as a sovereign state and that its sovereignty will not be violated.

But there is a big ‘but’. Israel has continuously, for many years, and especially in the last six months since the massacre of the 7th of October, has been violating time and time again the sovereignty of Lebanon, of Syria and apparently of Iran itself in past years as well So just like I’m against the violation of the sovereignty of Israel I am against the violation that the government of Israel carries out so as opposed to the public opinion in general as I said before: The majority considers the attack by Iran as an aggression against Israel, but totally ignores the aggression of Israel itself against the neighboring countries. This is something which I personally do not endorse and cannot endorse.

In my view, neither Israel nor others should violate the sovereignty of another country and of another nation. And when I say another nation, this is very important because as long as the Palestinian people do not enjoy their own independent state, that means that their own sovereignty, by definition, the Palestinian people’s sovereignty itself is violated.

The US government as well as the Israeli one considered the defense against the Iranian attack a success.  What does the people of Israel think? Do they think it was a success? Do they feel secure? Do they have even more trust in the Israeli Defense Forces? Or are they more like worried because it is the first time that Iran has attacked Israel directly?

I think that both. First, you know, I have to use this opportunity to send my wishes for the little seven-year-old girl in Israel that was seriously wounded by the attack of Iran. Just as I have to send my condolences to those some people in Jordan who were killed.

So of course there was a cost to this attack, but you are totally right, it was relatively cheap to avert. It’s very difficult for me to say that because people were hurt. So to say it was cheap as if they were a commodity is something which I totally reject, but for the sake of an argument I will say that, with all the reservations.

Small majority of Israeli population rejects retaliation against Iran

And so many people in Israel, and I’m talking about the people at large, not necessarily politicians, say that the government of Israel should not attack Iran, because the attack by Iran was relatively mild and that if Israel were to retaliate, then it could draw us all into a terrible bloodshed in the regional war and beyond.

According to the polls that I saw today or the day before or yesterday, the majority, a small majority, according to the polls, a small majority in Israel does not want Israel to attack Iran and consider, as I said, the drones and missiles that were shot by Iran as relatively marginal. But there are, of course, then many people, I would say, it is almost 50-50 according to the polls who think either that the so-called national pride of Israel was violated. They think that Israel must retaliate to keep its pride, which again I totally reject.

Netanyahu’s fascist government and its inner dynamics

How about the government: If left alone the Netanyahu government would attack and its allies in the coalition even would demand a harder attack than he himself would maybe do. But then we have the Americans and even now the Europeans who openly call for restraint. How do you see this reflected in the government coalition?

Well, unfortunately, it seems there is a consensus within the world cabinet to attack Iran. So, it’s not only the inclination or the aspiration of the more extremists within the government, which is it’s very hard to say more extremists, because this government as a whole is an extremist government. As you know, I’ve been calling this government a full-fledged fascist government even before the massacre of October 7th, let alone after, given the activities and the massacre that the government of Israel itself carries out against the people of Gaza. But there are within this extremist fascist government some factions which are worse than others.

Biden keeps on delivering arms to Israel

But it seems that there is a consensus between them and within the cabinet, the so-called wider cabinet and war cabinet to attack Iran, and the only debate seems to be around the timing and the extent of the attack.

But I want to say something very clear about the European Union and especially about the United States or to be more precise the Biden’s administration. There is a continuous contradiction between the rhetoric and the practice.

Because on the one hand, for instance, we’ve been seeing for six months and more that while Mr. Biden talks about reducing the death toll, reducing if not ending the death toll among innocent citizens, especially children, which is terrible. At the same time, he’s been sending arms to Israel.

And the same about the European Union, especially countries like Britain, Germany, etc. So, I’m not very impressed by the rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Biden and others, because I don’t know what they say behind the scenes. And secondly, I do not see any kind of changing in their arms trading policy.

But still, I must insist on this question. For instance, take Germany, which has been clear, very clear in supporting the Netanyahu government without any ‘buts’ and any ‘don’ts’. And now that Israel has been attacked by 300 missiles and drones, even the German government called in that context for restraint. How is this received by the Netanyahu government and its allies?

It seems that Netanyahu is in deep stress because he’s under pressure from two different poles. On the one hand, those who are defined before as the worst extremists within the extremist government who want and try to push Netanyahu to strike, to go forward, and to be as violent as possible. And there are also some from the opposition who say the same, that Israel must retaliate immediately, it must hit back strongly. So, this is one pole.

The other pole, if we take it for granted and if we believe them, seems to ask for restraint, as you put it before.

So, in that sense Netanyahu himself and his closest allies within the government and the coalition are definitely under pressure because those poles, each of those poles tries to pull towards one’s own edge. It’s hard to tell who eventually is going to win.

There is a sport game called pulling the rope, it seems this is the relevant description to use it as a metaphor, to the current situation of Netanyahu personally and the government, because those two poles pull to different directions. And the question is, which of those poles is going to win? Hard to tell.

Though smaller than before, still the majority supports assault on Gaza

My final question. Inside the Israeli state, there had been already a huge conflict with Netanyahu’s government over his constitutional reforms. Do you think that there are additional forces who now say, ‘enough is enough, this man is pushing the whole country not only into the conflict with Gaza, with Lebanon, Hezbollah, but now on top of this, Iran, that’s too much’? Do you think that especially inside the state apparatus, these kinds of voices are heard?

You can see, you can hear some of those voices, especially among the public, and especially among, for instance, many, not all, but many of the families of the hostages, who for the first time a couple of weeks ago went out very explicitly and said Netanyahu should be removed from his office, because he sacrifices knowingly and consciously the lives of the Israeli hostages. You can see that among the public, of course, many, the majority, think like that. But at the same time, the majority, although it’s smaller than before, still supports the assault on Gaza.

As far as the state apparatus is concerned, I haven’t heard any clear opposition voice to the policy of the government.

And even within the opposition in the parliament, I think that we are the only ones who’ve been raising the voice against the assault on Gaza, against the bloodshed, for the sake and benefit for both peoples of the land, for the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike.

This interview was conducted on behalf of and first published on TeleSUR TV in spanish.

Yunus Soner

Political Scientist, former Deputy Chairman of Vatan Party (Türkiye) Soner has participated in diplomatic visits to China, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico, among others. He has conducted meetings with President Bashar Al Assad (Syria), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Mexico), Manuel Zelaya (Honduras) and Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Finances and Representatives of Parliament from various countries. He has worked on Turkish-Russian, Turkish-Syrian, Turkish-Chinese and Turkish-Egyptian relations as well as on Latin America. Soner has had media participation in various international media channels, among them Russia Today and Sputnik (Russia), CGTN (China), Press TV (Iran), Syrian TV, El Mayaddin (Lebanon) and Telesur (Venezuela) and Turkish media. He has been a columnist to Turkish daily newspaper Aydınlık




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May 2024