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By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.

The longer Netanyahu extends the war in Gaza Strip (GS), the more precarious his position becomes. His stubbornness weakens his prospects, laying bare his vulnerabilities. Attempting to evade the inevitable consequences by pursuing unrealistic objectives, only plunges him deeper into despair. With each passing moment, the resistance gains leverage, compelling Netanyahu to abandon his untenable position.

This rushing to the forefront may temporarily extend his and his government’s political tenure and delay the reckoning of future consequences. However, this hasty maneuver is bound to result in amplified losses, a more pronounced downfall, and a more ignominious failure in the long run.

The draft truce, which Hamas agreed to with the concerted efforts of the Qatari and Egyptian sides, in coordination with the Americans, presented a viable path towards ending the war in GS. Hamas and the resistance forces made only minor adjustments to enhance the coherence of the agreement and strengthen guarantees. While the draft encompassed key provisions such as the cessation of hostilities, the complete withdrawal of occupying forces, the repatriation of displaced persons, the unfettered entry of humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials into GS, and the implementation of a substantial captive and prisoner exchange, Hamas demonstrated flexibility on tactical and procedural matters. These included considerations regarding the duration and sequencing of the truce, the phased withdrawal of Israeli forces, and the mechanisms for facilitating the captive and prisoner exchange.

Hamas’ agreement was hailed as a “masterstroke” that effectively cornered the Israeli side. US officials acknowledged the seriousness of Hamas’ response, noting a subtle shift in tone. Despite intense US interest and continued monitoring by key figures in foreign policy and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Netanyahu persisted in his arrogance and obstinacy. He chose to expose his vulnerability to both his domestic audience and his closest global allies, signaling a lack of genuine commitment to ceasefire efforts and the cessation of hostilities. Furthermore, he deliberately declared that the invasion of Rafah would proceed with or without an agreement. Netanyahu reiterated his rejection of the proposed agreement, emphasizing the Israeli military’s intent to neutralize the “four battalions” under Hamas’ command in Rafah. He reiterated that the primary objective of entering Rafah was to eliminate Hamas and secure the release of the captives.

Netanyahu was accompanied by his Likud party’s Defense Minister Yoav Galant, who declared that the operation in Rafah “will not stop until Hamas is eliminated in the area.” Concurrently, the leader of Religious Zionism Bezalel Smotrich emphasized that “a surrender deal that will lead to the end of the war without total victory is a disaster,” adding, “Rafah now.”

It seems that Netanyahu and his government, with their extremist stance, are unwilling to learn from more than seven months of warfare. Despite spending months in northern and central Gaza, leaving no stone unturned, they failed to eliminate Hamas. Tens of thousands of Qassam fighters continued to operate in those areas, inflicting heavy losses on the Israelis daily. What new outcome do they hope to achieve in Rafah?! The control of al-Qassam Brigades and resistance forces over an extensive network of tunnels in Rafah, connected to central and northern areas, allows them to maneuver in an unblockable manner, turning the transfer of Israeli captives into a mere procedural matter.

As a politically exposed figure, Netanyahu, facing dwindling support from both his domestic audience and international allies regarding the feasibility and continuation of the war, is now attempting to assuage global objections and placate his staunchest supporters by asserting that the assault on Rafah will be brief and restrained, with a focus on minimizing civilian casualties and disrupting Hamas’ weapons smuggling operations. However, the fundamental question remains: if previous prolonged, brutal and destructive campaigns have failed to achieve their objectives, how can Netanyahu expect to succeed in more challenging goals with “less brutality” and a compressed timeline?!! Consequently, the Rafah invasion project appears to be nothing more than a failed endeavor waiting to unfold. Similarly, entrusting the management of the Rafah crossing to an American security firm will also be thrown away.

Netanyahu and his hardline coalition, having exhausted their aggression and brutality, are beginning to recognize the undeniable reality before them. They can no longer evade the consequences of the Operation al-Aqsa Flood and its aftermath. It signifies a bitter failure in achieving their stated objectives: crushing Hamas, subduing the Palestinian popular support, securing the release of captives, occupying GS and imposing their will upon it. They are now compelled to acquiesce to the conditions set by the resistance to halt the war, a complete withdrawal from GS, the repatriation of displaced individuals, the provision of essential aid to GS, and the negotiation of an honorable prisoner exchange with the resistance.

Netanyahu will, sooner or later, do so, as his popularity, along with that of his party, continues to decline. Concurrently, Israel risks increasing isolation on the global stage, straining relations with the US and its other allies. The escalating enmity against Israel in the Arab and Muslim regions will further paralyze the process of “normalization.” Meanwhile, mounting protests in American, European and international universities underscore the growing opposition to Netanyahu’s policies and aggression. Moreover, with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is reportedly considering issuing an arrest warrant for Netanyahu, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is intensifying its scrutiny on his political administration.

Therefore, the Rafah attack may temporarily extend Netanyahu’s political tenure by a few days, yet it serves as yet another indictment of his leadership failures and brutal tactics, ultimately exacerbating his downfall.

Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 13/5/2024

The opinions expressed in all the publications and studies are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of al-Zaytouna Centre.

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