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Netanyahu enlarges the circle of enemies

Sep 03,2019 - Last updated at Sep 03,2019

"I am doing everything to defend our nation's security from all directions: in the north facing Lebanon and Hizbollah, in Syria facing Iran and Hizbollah, unfortunately in Iraq as well facing Iran. We are surrounded by radical Islam led by Iran," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared last week.

The Times of Israel called his words "the biggest hint yet that Israel was operating in Iraq against Iranian interests".

Why is such a "hint" so noteworthy? Because Israel usually does not admit responsibility for raids on neighbouring Arab countries even when evidence points in its direction.

But if the recent simultaneous Israeli attacks on Syrian, Lebanese and Iraqi territory were meant to boost Netanyahu's election chances, then he has to claim credit for the attacks.

In order to benefit, he had to drop these "hints" even if the Pentagon, though not the State Department or the White House, was opposed to the Israeli attacks on Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces.

The US Defence Department knows that the formidable Iranian-supported Popular Mobilisation Forces, which helped defeat Daesh, could be turned against US forces still in Iraq.

This latest round of Israeli escalation and aggression may, indeed, be linked to Netanyahu's desperation to escape the disastrous consequences of election defeat, including likely indictment on corruption charges.

But that does not mean that Israel's, not just Netanyahu's, belligerence would end there.

For the last seven years, Israeli attacks on targets in Syria have been routine. The excuses alternated between attacking convoys transporting weapons to Hizbollah in Lebanon, or hitting Iranian bases in Syria.

For decades, Israeli warplanes have been violating Lebanese airspace for various illegal missions without any fear of accountability under international law.

It is an historic oddity that Israel, since its creation, could hardly take its finger off the trigger. And that is not difficult to understand.

In its first war with the Arabs in 1947/1948, Israel managed to take control of 78 per cent of mostly ethnically cleansed Palestinian land, including the larger part of Jerusalem. This was an area much larger than the 57 per cent the UN General Assembly Partition Resolution of 1947 had recommended for a Jewish state.

But even so, Israel's territorial ambitions were unsatisfied. In 1967, Israel waged a major military attack on Egypt, Jordan and Syria simultaneously. In only a few days, Israeli forces occupied the rest of Palestine, the Syrian Golan Heights and the entire Sinai, including Gaza on the Egyptian side.

Except for Sinai, all the other areas are still under illegal occupation despite dozens of UN Resolutions demanding reversal.

Today, Israel occupies all of Palestine. More than six million Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and Israel itself live under harsh conditions. It continues to colonise Palestinian land, squeezing its owners out. And Israel makes clear that it will never willingly put an end to this injustice.

On top of all that, Palestinians are expected to remain quiet, not to resort to any action to seek an end to the injustice, let alone self-determination and statehood.

Any attempt on their part to resist or use force against the harsh occupation is condemned as terror. Any external support for the legitimate Palestinian cause is also condemned as support for terror. Any criticism of oppressive and illegal Israeli practices is described as anti-Semitism.

For decades, the course Israel has chosen to follow is to deflect attention from the real causes of its self-sustained troubles by inventing new enemies. For years it was Iraq, until that country was destroyed by the US invasion that Israel spent years agitating for.

Now it is Iran and "radical Islam".

Netanyahu and Israeli leaders before him have spent decades trying to convince the world that Israel is hated for the good it supposedly represents rather than for its criminal actions.

The claim is that Israel is discriminated against because it is Jewish, rather than for the atrocities it commits against Palestinians and its constant violations of international law.

Israel does not seem to realise that injustice cannot continue forever without a price.

It took much too long for the world to realise that the Palestinians' rights deserve to be recognised, supported and endorsed. So far, Israel has succeeded in delaying decisive action to see Palestinian rights implemented. But it has to resort to ever more dangerous escalation to keep the deflection going.

Iran does, indeed, support the Palestinians' struggle to regain their rights, but not out hostility to Israel per se, and certainly not out of hostility to Jews. Rather, Iran supports Palestinian rights just as people all over the world do: because the Palestinian cause is a just cause.

And while this cause is supported by the principles of international law, Israeli actions and practices are not.

Similarly, Iran supports Lebanon's resistance, which may be inconvenient for Israel. But this resistance is the consequence of Israel's decades of bloody invasions and occupations in Lebanon.

If Israel were to abide by its international obligations, recognise legitimate Palestinian rights and replace its belligerence with peaceful relations, it would end the escalation, polarisation and warmongering.

Instead, by always widening its circle of regional enemies, Israel seems determined to terminate any chance of its people becoming a peaceful part of the region.

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