Israelis May Ask Who the Real Hostage-Takers Are: Hamas or Netanyahu Regime?
The criminal recklessness of Netanyahu and his regime will rebound with a vengeance, Finian Cunningham writes.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war Cabinet are pushing ahead with a limited ground invasion of Gaza – even though that will mean disaster for thousands of more innocent lives, including over 200 Israeli hostages.
The Biden administration has reportedly been trying to delay the drastic manoeuvre to give more chance for negotiations to secure the release of hostages. But Netanyahu and his cabinet are driven by their ideological fanaticism and need to save face.
Since the attacks on Israel by Hamas Palestinian militants on October 7, the world has been waiting for a much-vaunted ground invasion by the Israeli Defense Forces into the Gaza Strip. Over 1,400 Israelis were killed during the Hamas raids. An estimated 230 hostages were taken by the militants back to Gaza where they are held in secret locations presumably in a network of underground tunnels.
Three weeks of intense aerial bombardment of the Palestinian coastal territory have wrought unprecedented death and destruction in Gaza. Over 8,000 people have been killed with 70 percent of the toll due to women, children and elderly, according to Gaza’s health officials.
The plight of the hostages presents a dilemma for Netanyahu. He is trying to assure Israelis that the “second stage” of the “war on Hamas” – that is the ground invasion – will achieve both objectives of defeating Hamas and rescuing the hostages.
However, the Israeli leader and his war Cabinet are cynically deceiving their people. If the IDF proceed further with its ground operation, the hostages will most likely die.
Already Hamas spokesmen have claimed that 50 hostages have lost their lives during the relentless air strikes over the past three weeks. Hamas released four of the hostages on humanitarian considerations.
The fierce gun battles that are anticipated amid the rubble of Gaza and throughout the maze of tunnels do not bode well for the safe return of the remaining captives.
This is why families of the hostages and many supporters among the Israeli public are calling on Netanyahu to abandon the ground operation and to engage in negotiations for a prisoner exchange.
Hamas officials have offered the release of hostages in exchange for the freedom of all Palestinian political prisoners held by the Israelis. The Israelis detained an estimated 5,000 Palestinians before October 7. The number has increased dramatically over the past three weeks due to a repressive policy of reprisal by the Israeli state. Hundreds of Palestinians in the other enclave territory of the Occupied West Bank have been taken into custody under emergency powers.
Israeli families are becoming increasingly angry at the way Netanyahu and his ministers are handling the crisis. Protests were held at the weekend outside the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv. One parent demanded: “We want all of them [the hostages] back with us today. We want you, the Cabinet, the government, to imagine that these are your children.”
Many Israelis have pointed out how Netanyahu’s sons, Yair and Avner, have inexplicably avoided military call-ups during the so-called state of war declared by the Cabinet. Netanyahu’s eldest son Yair (32) has been on an extended holiday in Miami since April this year.
Others are indignant at the seemingly callous attitude towards the families. “They feel like they’re left behind and no one is really caring about them,” said Miki Haimovitz, a former lawmaker. “No one is explaining what’s going on,” he added, as quoted by Associated Press.
Another lawmaker, Ofer Cassif, told the Strategic Culture Foundation that the Netanyahu government is ramping up repressive powers against any form of opposition to its military and security policies.
Cassif says public meetings throughout Israel are being banned for any groups who are calling for an end to the violence and for negotiations to prevail. He says the persecution is particularly sharp against Palestinians living in Israeli territory. Still, all citizens including Jews who are speaking out against war are liable to be charged as “terrorists”.
In a statement, Cassif, a Member of Parliament (Knesset) for the Hadash party said: “Netanyahu and his thugs use the smokescreen of the war to impose a martial law on Israeli citizens, predominantly Palestinian ones: protests are prohibited and can now be answered with live ammunition, workers and students are suspended and dissidents are persecuted for posts on the social network. I plead to the world – supporting the Israeli government is not supporting Israeli people – it is supporting fascism, death and dictatorship. If you wish to help Israeli people in this dire time – support the peace movement, not the warmongers who waged a war against their own people.”
Despite the repression, a groundswell of public opposition is building against Netanyahu and his coalition administration, which comprises extreme Zionists like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Interior Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Last year, Netanyahu riled mass opposition to what was perceived by the public as a grab for dictatorial powers under the so-called reform of the state’s judiciary. Netanyahu has avoided court prosecution for several corruption cases by extending his time in political office. He has done this by making a pact with extremists who have long wanted to eradicate residual Palestinian territory in Gaza and the West Bank to fulfil a Zionist project of forming “Eretz Israel” (Greater Israel).
When the Hamas killings took place on October 7, many Israelis initially rallied behind Netanyahu and his War Cabinet.
But despite the repressive climate in Israel, many people are now asking questions of Netanyahu and his regime. How was such a security failure possible on October 7? Netanyahu, the wily and slippery character he is, has tried to scapegoat his military team only for them to hit back at him.
In extreme overcompensation for failure, Netanyahu and his fanatical Cabinet are going hard into Gaza to show muscle, regardless of the innocent suffering and mounting war crimes. All too evidently, also of disregard is the fate of Israeli hostages.
The criminal recklessness of Netanyahu and his regime will rebound with a vengeance. Over half of the hostages held by Hamas are foreigners, including American and British citizens.
The death and destruction in Gaza could be stopped immediately if Israel abided by the United Nations’ call for an immediate ceasefire. But, diabolically, the Palestinians, Israelis and indeed the wider region are being held hostage by a psychopathic regime headed by Benjamin Netanyahu.