This is Benjamin Netanyahu’s War.

This is Benjamin Netanyahus War.

On October 7th, 2023, Hamas terrorists stormed into southern Israel, committing the worst attack on Israel in its almost 80-year history. Over 1,200 Israeli men, women, and children were killed brutally by Hamas militants. Around 240 Israeli citizens were kidnapped, and as of this writing around 130 remain in captivity. 


The attacks of Hamas should not be dismissed. They are the cause of this stage of the conflict. The governmental force of Gaza has now brought about an existential crisis for the 2.3 million Palestinians within its tight borders. But as the war drags on and on, the Israeli military mission grows more and more disillusioned. On the surface, this war is to save the hostages still held by Hamas. 


One man seeks to salvage his grip on power. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel. He wants “total victory” in Gaza. Nobody will stop Netanyahu, his right-wing coalition, and Israeli forces from crushing Gaza and usurping power in the region. As Bibi said himself,No one will stop us, not The Hague, not the axis of evil and not anyone else.” 


This war has transformed in many ways. For Benjamin Netanyahu, it has transformed from a war for Israel to defend itself from Hamas terrorists. For Netanyahu, this is a war to wreak havoc on Gaza, something Israeli forces have done efficiently. It’s a war of revenge not just on Hamas terrorists who killed, wounded, and scarred thousands, but to reestablish this political image he has worked so hard to cultivate. This is no longer Israel’s war. It’s Benjamin Netanyahu’s war. 


Since October 7th, the exacerbated occupied territory of Gaza has been subjected to the most destructive bombing campaign this century. That includes the American bombardments of Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes Assad’s gassing of his civilians in Syria. Over 29,000 Palestinians lay dead. The international community is appalled by the continued Israeli military operation in Gaza. The Gaza Strip has been shut off from the world. Yet despite multiple ceasefire resolutions, the Israeli military continues its pursuit of Hamas terrorists, regardless of the civilian death toll in Gaza. 


Benjamin Netanyahu presided over the biggest security failure in the history of the modern state of Israel. On his watch, 1,200 Israeli civilians died and another 240 were taken hostage by Hamas terrorists. Disturbingly, Israel knew an attack by Hamas was imminent and even possessed the battle plans for said attack up to a year before October 7th. But as noted in a November 2023 investigation by the New York Times, “The most powerful military force in the Middle East had not only completely underestimated the magnitude of the attack, it had totally failed in its intelligence-gathering efforts, mostly due to hubris and the mistaken assumption that Hamas was a threat contained.” The writers for the Times, Ronen Bergman, Mark Mazzetti, and Maria Abi-Habib, also wrote that through their investigation found “Israeli security officials spent months trying to warn Mr. Netanyahu that the political turmoil caused by his domestic policies was weakening the country’s security and emboldening Israel’s enemies.” 


What were those domestic policies? Since Netanyahu formed his latest right wing coalition, he has grown even more bold in stating his belief that Israel will one day be a unified state, not one shared with their Palestinian neighbors. In December of 2022, shortly after his reelection, the new government under Netanyahu pledged its support for the expansion of Israel. In a simplified version of these priorities by The Times of Israel, the publication wrote the first priority as such:The Jewish people have an exclusive and inalienable right to all parts of the Land of Israel. The government will promote and develop the settlement of all parts of the Land of Israel — in the Galilee, the Negev, the Golan and Judea and Samaria.” 


Since then, Netanyahu’s government has made life in the West Bank and Gaza even more difficult. In his first year back in office, the Netanyahu administration authorized the building of more than 13,000 new homes for Israel settlement exclusively. This drew condemnation from the United Nations. In Gaza, the back-breaking blockade continued, shutting off the impoverished Palestinians from necessities like food and water. This after all is a part of “putting the Gazans on a diet” a policy that has been in place since 2011. Essentially, the Israeli military calculated the necessary calories a day for each Gazan and distributed the food supply as needed. This, according to the U.N, is collective punishment, a violation of international law. 


Did you know that Hamas has played a key role in Netanyahu’s denial of a two-state solution with Palestinians? When he first ran for office in 1996, Netanyahu used recent Hamas terrorist attacks to undermine the peace process, using the deaths of Israelis to promote his political platform. In the wake of October 7th, the Netanyahu-Hamas relationship became clear. In another New York Times report, agents of Mossad, the Israeli equivalent to the CIA, met with Qatari officials to discuss funding to Gaza. The money wasn’t going to the correct people. The Times reported, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel not only tolerated those payments, he had encouraged them.” The payments being made were going to Hamas, not the Gazan people, strengthening their governing power and their paramilitary forces. That money, according to the Times, “had a role in the success of the Oct. 7 attacks, if only because the donations allowed Hamas to divert some of its budget toward military operations.” 


Hamas has been a bargaining chip for Netanyahu. In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority rules with a much less militant agenda towards the Israeli government. The PA also operates under the Israeli military, a consequence of being under occupation. The PA seeks to reestablish the Oslo Accords, a series of peace agreements brokered in the 1990s. Unfortunately for the PA and fortunately for Bibi Netanyahu, the Oslo Accords don’t jive with the current Israeli administration’s agenda for the future of Palestine. Add the Hamas factor, and Netanyahu now has a case against making peace with the Palestinians. As Tal Schnieder of The Times of Israel wrote in her Op-Ed about the attacks, Netanyahu believed “maintaining the separation between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza would prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” 


As mentioned above, the intelligence and security failures in the wake of October 7th have left many Israeli voters wanting Netanyahu gone. Some are angered by his connections to Hamas. Despite only 15% of the Israeli population wanting him to stay in office once the war in Gaza ends, Netanyahu has repeatedly dismissed calls for a special election. His popularity and right-wing coalition have been faltering because they failed to provide security to Israel. That was after all their number one objective. 


The international community is appalled by the actions of Israel in their pursuit of Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Brazil has recently recalled their ambassador after President Lula Da Silva statedWhat is happening in the Gaza Strip with the Palestinian people has no parallel in other historical moments. It did exist when Hitler decided to kill the Jews.” Brazil isn’t the only nation to swiftly turn its back on Israel. South Africa filed a case in January in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) alleging that since the occupation of Palestinian territories began in 1967, the state of Israel has created an apartheid system in both the West Bank and Gaza. President of South Africa and former confidant of Nelson Mandela, Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement that the world has “sat helplessly and watched as intensifying airstrikes on Gaza and the West Bank have destroyed schools, health facilities, ambulances and civilian infrastructure and supposedly safe roads traveling to the south of Gaza.” 


Even Israel’s allies, including the United States, are weary of a continued and controversial war in Gaza. In late January, The Times of Israel reported: “The US, Egypt, and Qatar are pushing Israel and Hamas to accept a comprehensive plan that would end the war, see the release of hostages held in Gaza, and ultimately lead to full normalization for Israel with its neighbors and talks for the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Israel has been outvoted multiple times in ceasefire resolutions, with the latest ceasefire vote getting only one vote against the stoppage of the war in Gaza. That one dissenting vote? The United States of America. 


Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, humanitarian aid has been hard to come by for starving Palestinians. Almost all hospitals and medical supplies in Gaza have been used. Food, already in short supply because of the Israeli blockade mentioned above, has only grown more and more scarce. Clean drinking water is essentially non-existent. Persistent Israeli bombing attacks have destroyed sewage plants and water refinery plants. Gaza is on the brink of starvation and being dehydrated day by day. Disease spreads rapidly. 


A December 2023 report from Human Rights Watch highlighted the alleged war crimes Israel is committing with their besiegement of Gaza. HRW’s Israel and Palestinian Director Omar Shakir pointed out For over two months, Israel has been depriving Gaza’s population of food and water, a policy spurred on or endorsed by high-ranking Israeli officials and reflecting an intent to starve civilians as a method of warfare.” Israeli senior officials haven’t exactly been coy about their devastating siege of Gaza. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a press conference on October 9th, 2023I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed.” Gallant doubled down on his statement, as he added “We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.” 


In late October of last year, Benjamin Netanyahu held a press conference pledging a similar message to that of Gallant’s. He told reporters “We will not allow humanitarian assistance in the form of food and medicines from our territory to the Gaza Strip.” But as Sari Bashi of Human Rights Watch noted, “During previous hostilities, it has maintained electricity and water supply to Gaza and found ways to open its truck crossings. Not this time.”


Regardless of the outcome, on the international stage and at home, Benjamin Netanyahu has lost. His failure to secure the state of Israel from its greatest regional threat has made him a pariah in his nation. His influence, especially amongst the most radical Israeli nationalists, is slipping. Gaza will continue to suffer because of Netanyahu’s policies, blockade of vital humanitarian aid, and bombing campaigns. In the West Bank, the prospect of peace, because of Hamas’s attacks and Netanyahu’s calculating statesmanship, is dimming day by day. 

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About the Contributor
Eli Kernaghan
Eli Kernaghan, Co-Editor
Eli Kernaghan is a senior at CCES. This is my 5th year at Christ Church. My hobbies include baseball, vinyl record collecting, guitar, listening to music, and of course writing.