Netanyahu Tries to Shore Himself Up

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not need the people of Gaza demonstrating on their border to create what amounted to a target-shooting opportunity that killed at least 17 and injured hundreds. The army has been in the business of killing Arabs and Palestinians since the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 and the dispossession and exile of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. On March 30, the Palestinians’ commemoration of Land Day––and a few weeks short of the 70th anniversary of the nakba––the IDF was prepared with snipers and reinforcements and knew “where every bullet landed,” according to a now-deleted tweet by its spokesperson.

Such a ruthless response to the peaceful march by tens of thousands of Palestinians, who aimed to remind the world of their just claim to the land, cannot be separated from the cynical use of the occasion by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ever the consummate politician bent on remaining in power, he must have found this a perfect opportunity to shore up his popularity at a time when he, along with his wife and son, are under investigation for corruption. Running away from domestic trouble by creating external diversions has been a tried and true tactic by politicians ensnared in serious legal cases that could lead to their political demise.

Still, Netanyahu’s ploy to distract the Israeli public by directing its attention to a Palestinian “boogeyman” is unlikely to work. Israeli media reports indicate that the police have developed tight cases against the prime minister. Indeed, Netanyahu may now be preparing for an heir who could take up the mantle of denying Palestinian rights and humanity.

Unfortunately, this should be no consolation for Palestinians or their struggle for human and national rights. Israeli rightwing politicians from Netanyahu’s Likud and affiliated parties are arguably worse, and they are eager to take over. They will be unabashed about applying the same brutality as was unleashed last weekend on unarmed Gazans. In Israel’s political atmosphere today, where chauvinism passes for politics, no Palestinian is immune to politicians’ cynicism, the IDF’s ferocious sniper fire, and Zionism’s colonial occupation.