For those who know Benjamin Netanyahu, it was clear that, faced with the impossibility of forming a government, the Israeli prime minister was going to destabilise the situation in order to appear as a strong right-wing leader who could control everything. As expressed by former prime minister Ehud Olmert before the recent attacks on Gaza: “Netanyahu will not be the one to light the match. That will be taken care of by Lehava activists […] He wants a crisis. Jerusalem is the ideal location.”
And Netanyahu did what he knows best. Attacks against Palestinians going to pray in Al-Aqsa mosque, as well as the Holy Sepulchre, the closure of Damascus Gate and the eviction threats against dozens of Palestinian families were all part of the same movement of occupation and annexation.
The attacks were coordinated between the Israeli police and religious Zionist extremists that, under the chant “death to the Arabs”, did everything possible to make the situation explode, including with vicious attacks against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Then things moved towards Gaza.
The Israeli attacks began without a clear reason other than Netanyahu’s political ambitions, just as they partially ended with no reason either. Other than some recycled slogans, it is not obvious what Israel was seeking in Gaza. International statements of Israel’s “right” to self-defence could be taken as little else but complicity with attacks against civilians and their properties, including the only Covid-19 treatment centre in Gaza. After 11 days, however, a ceasefire was achieved and Netanyahu’s strategy seems to have failed.
But this is not the end of the story. This isn’t just about a ceasefire; it is about finding a political solution that embraces basic universal principles such as freedom, justice, equality and security for all.
There can be no peace without ending the Israeli occupation, including in East Jerusalem. If the past weeks provided lessons for the international community, then a main one is that they cannot continue to ignore the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Any solution should include full equality for all citizens as well as the respect and recognition of our rights as a national minority.
The Biden administration has a special responsibility in all of this: the unconditional funding of Israel’s war machine by the US is part of the problem. The US and the European Union, Israel’s main funder and trade partner respectively, should make clear to the Israeli government that there will be consequences for their ongoing policies. Those who claim to “share values” with Israel seem not to have seen what all Palestinians, including those citizens of the self-proclaimed “only democracy of the Middle East”, have been going through.
The fact that no EU member state supported the UN Human Rights Council vote on a commission of inquiry represents a new message of impunity for Israel. The British negative vote did nothing but add salt to the wound, especially considering its historic responsibility. This is not the time for diplomats to repeat old talking points to protect Israel from any kind of legitimate international action. Rather it is a moment for root causes to be addressed and to ensure accountability for all violations of international law and human rights. This is how peace is achieved; this is how a rules-based world order is achieved. Israel’s impunity does precisely the opposite.
Ending the occupation and achieving equal rights are basic requirements for a just and lasting peace. This is not going to be an easy process but it is the only way to move forward. Failure to act will simply help perpetuate a legacy Human Rights Watch, Btselem and several Palestinian human rights organisations have already denounced: apartheid.
Sami Abou Shehadeh is a Palestinian historian from Jaffa, member of the Israeli parliament for the Joint List and leader of the Balad/Tajamu party