‘Do you condemn Hamas?’
Israel’s main opposition leader Yair Lapid made headlines once more on Monday. Calling for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s resignation for the colossal intelligence failure on Oct. 7, Lapid echoed a growing sentiment among the Israeli population and even within the incumbent’s own government of right-wing extremists.
“He who has failed in this way can’t continue,” he said. Lapid added that Netanyahu, under whose watch Hamas fighters broke out of Gaza and killed more than 1,200 people, “should go.”
I agree with Lapid; Netanyahu should go. However, he should not resign for the reasons the opposition leader has stated. No, Netanyahu’s crime goes far beyond assuming what happened on Oct. 7 was a result of an intelligence oversight, security negligence and/or divisive politics, which this government toyed with from the get-go.
What happened on Oct. 7 was a direct result of 16 years of Netanyahu’s long-standing and deliberate policy of “propping up” Hamas, a group which he himself describes as terrorists, and undermining the legitimate Palestinian Authority and sidelining its President Mahmoud Abbas.
Netanyahu’s devious plan ticked several boxes at once. On the one hand, he empowered an unacceptable face for the Palestinian cause: an Islamic militant group that is backed by Iran, a pariah state, and classified by many countries as a terrorist group. On the other hand, he widened divisions within Palestinians themselves. Then, after having diluted the authority of Abbas, Netanyahu kept repeating everywhere that he was ready to strike a peace deal with the Palestinians but that there was no suitable, legitimate counterpart.
This meant that for the good part of a decade and a half, Netanyahu never had to seriously talk about a Palestinian state. Yet he did not realize that by being granted his three wishes: embracing the Israeli extreme right, empowering Hamas and marginalizing the PA, he was entering a monkey’s paw situation. His deal with the devil had to come with a price, and the price was what happened on Oct. 7.
The natural follow-up to the now infamously repetitive question should be ‘Then, you must condemn Netanyahu’
Faisal J. Abbas
Of course, you might think the editor of an Arab newspaper might be biased when describing the politics of an Israeli prime minister — this is why I invite you not just to take my word for it, but to read what The Times of Israel had to say about the topic, too.
“For years, Netanyahu propped up Hamas. Now it’s blown up in our faces,” read a lead article by columnist Tal Schneider, who argued on Oct. 8 that Netanyahu’s policy of treating Hamas as a partner, at the expense of Abbas and Palestinian statehood, “resulted in wounds that will take Israel years to heal from.”
Netanyahu “upgraded Hamas from a mere terror group to an organization with which Israel held indirect negotiations via Egypt, and one that was allowed to receive infusions of cash from abroad,” she added.
The same article even repeats comments made by Netanyahu in a private meeting in 2019 that the best way to guarantee that a Palestinian state could never become a reality is to keep supporting Hamas.
This is why I think the natural follow-up to the now infamously repetitive “Do you condemn Hamas?” question should be, “Then, you must condemn Netanyahu.” After all, we all know that terror groups cannot operate without enablers and backers. And given that, in many countries, supporters of terrorism get the same punishment as the terrorists themselves; then Netanyahu must be held accountable.
Indeed, if the Israeli army is allowed to arrest women in the town of Nahf for posting a pro-Hamas WhatsApp status, then Netanyahu should be tried for treason — not just corruption — in Israel, let alone for war crimes in The Hague.
As noted recently by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, we are witnessing “double standards” in the world’s response to the Israel-Hamas war. If the fact that some global powers are allowing Israel to violate international law during its war in Gaza is a crime, ignoring calls from within Israel itself for Netanyahu to leave is an even bigger crime.
• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor-in-chief of Arab News.