Running out of time

Damage and glass from broken windows is seen inside Hezbollah media center after an Israeli drone fell in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs and a second one exploded near the ground in Dahiyeh suburbs of Beirut, Lebanon August 25, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigence has been locked in high gear for the past few months.

It has reached new levels in the region over the last week, with Israeli attacks on targets in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. And it has been ramping up against the Palestinians, with fuel cuts to the Gaza Strip, annexation and settlement plans in the occupied West Bank in areas previously considered off-limits, and even apparent moves to change the status quo of Al-Aqsa Mosque to facilitate Jewish extremists’ ability to meander there.

This intensification can be explained by Netanyahu’s insecurity ahead of next month’s election rerun and his concern that if he loses, he may face a jail sentence for corruption. But it also is part of an effort to pave the way for U.S. President Donald Trump’s “deal of the century,” which appears to center around coercing the Palestinians into accepting an economic deal.

Both the U.S. and Israel know that pressure has not succeeded under even more dire circumstances. Yet its application now has made the unity of Israeli and U.S. policies on Palestine crystal clear. Netanyahu’s increased audacity could never have been possible without the support of the Trump administration.

To many observers, Netanyahu’s actions in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq target Iran, but in fact they serve several purposes: appeasing the U.S. over Tehran; sending a message to the countries concerned that Israel will not tolerate cooperation with the Islamic Republic; and indirectly pressuring the Palestinians.

This situation cannot be addressed in the same ways it has been in the past, with the usual repetition of the standard talking points and condemnations.

Israel has been creating “facts on the ground” for years, but its recent rapid acceleration of activity on several fronts due to the election rerun and Trump’s “deal of the century” means it is pushing more and more every day and time is running out.

If Netanyahu has his way, there will soon be nothing left to talk about as far as the Palestinians are concerned.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 28, 2019, on page 1.




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