Middle East war is the price of Netanyahu’s history with Hamas

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For all his personal eccentricity, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats said it best in his 1919 poem “The Second Coming.” In the wake of Hamas’ monstrous atrocity against Israeli civilians, it appears that “the best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are filled with passionate intensity.”

Which is exactly how the murdering lunatics of Hamas wanted it. The instinct is for tribal revenge. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant referred to Hamas as “animals” in announcing Israel’s intention to cut off electrical power, water and food to Gaza’s civilian population as its bombing campaign began.

Traveling Israel in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, New York Times correspondent Isabel Kershner found author Dorit Rabinyan, whose 2014 autobiographical novel “All the Rivers” sparked controversy by describing a love affair between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian Muslim man.

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Now, however, Rabinyan seeks revenge.

“I know it’s not noble of me,” she told the reporter. “I know there is suffering on the other side, but the other side took hostages and slaughtered so violently, with so much passion, that my compassion is somehow paralyzed.”

The novelist doubtless speaks for millions of Israelis, those who consider Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a bigot and a fraud, and who protested his Likud government’s policy of encouraging so-called “settlers” to seize Palestinian property in the West Bank and expel impoverished former owners to Gaza, the world’s largest prison camp.

Tribal instincts, once aroused, are hard to subdue.

Perennially warlike Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton was even less ambivalent. “As far as I’m concerned, Israel can bounce the rubble in Gaza,” the Republican lawmaker told Fox News. “Anything that happens in Gaza is the responsibility of Hamas. Hamas killed women and children in Israel last weekend.”

Exterminate them, he may as well have said.

And then what?

Hamas hopes to provoke Israel into committing crimes against humanity. Its goal is not so much to liberate Palestine as to exterminate Jews. The terror group’s charter recapitulates every antisemitic slur dreamed up since the Middle Ages. Hamas blames Jews for everything from the French and Russian revolutions to World War II — all part of a Jewish conspiracy to usher in that ancient delusion, one world government.

Based upon his own history, there’s no reason to think Netanyahu can restrain himself from a massacre of innocents. He’s too compromised, too captivated by Israeli religious fanatics, too weak.

‘Clear responsibility’ of Netanyahu

While it’s hardly mentioned by American cable news channels promoting “Israel at War,” the Times of Israel has reported that the Egyptian government says it gave pointed warnings to Netanyahu that Hamas was planning a big attack, and that he basically blew them off. He claims it never happened. It appears, however, that the embattled prime minister, facing trial on criminal corruption charges, may have imagined that a terrorist attack would make him stronger.

“For years,” the newspaper explained, “the various governments led by Benjamin Netanyahu took an approach that divided power between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank — bringing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to his knees while making moves that propped up the Hamas terror group.”

The idea was to weaken Palestinians trying to negotiate a “two-state solution” while trying to buy off Hamas fanatics. Netanyahu was quoted at a Likud party function in 2019 “saying that those who oppose a Palestinian state should support the transfer of funds to Gaza, because maintaining the separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”

Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, editorialized: “The disaster that befell Israel on the holiday of Simchat Torah is the clear responsibility of one person: Benjamin Netanyahu.” The prime minister, they wrote, failed by “establishing a government of annexation and dispossession … while embracing a foreign policy that openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians.”

According to Noga Tarnopolsky in The New York Times, “[f]ormer prime minister and former Israeli army chief Ehud Barak blamed Netanyahu on Sunday for ‘the greatest failure in Israel’s history.’ That same day, Moshe Yaalon, an opposition legislator and former Israeli army chief of staff, said in an interview that ‘every day that Netanyahu remains in power puts Israel in danger.”’

Party politics aside, in a small country like Israel, these are widely respected figures of real authority. Polls show that Netanyahu’s support has cratered.

If he had any integrity, the prime minister would resign and take his arrogant and stupid policy of playing games with homicidal lunatics with him. The president of the United States should keep his distance.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

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