Netanyahu Is Already Preparing for His Next War

The two days of warfare in the Gaza Strip that began with Israel’s assassination of a senior figure in Islamic Jihad, ended with no one killed on the Israeli side, very few wounded, and a victory photo that waited for with baited breath: the funeral of the troublemaker, Baha Abu al-Ata.

This mini-campaign was good for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, despite the sensitive political timing. He can take credit (in Ariel Sharon’s favorite phrase) for separating a mega-terrorist’s head from his body, without appearing as if he was influenced by extraneous motives. Apart from a few lone and negligible comments from the left, the prevailing view and the dominant narrative are that the operation was essential.

For Israel, the events ended in a more optimal way than the previous two rounds, in November last year and this past May. So, from Netanyahu’s perspective, he scored a few points. Gaza was always his Achilles’ heel. Now he can brandish some sort of tactical achievement that doesn’t move the country even one millimeter toward a solution for that hot spot.

The “paralysis” – the latest trendy word – that a two-bit terrorist organization forced on the strongest country in the Middle East arose from a strategic void. That national debacle dates to before Netanyahu’s era and has continued through the last decade, in which he labored to consolidate his image as “Mr. Security,” the rock of Israel and its redeemer, and as the Messiah son of David.

History, which does not judge leaders according to their spins and manipulations, will describe the prime minister’s years in office in less glowing terms than those bandied about by him and his herd of sycophants. Netanyahu will be remembered as a terrific speaker, with or without technical aids, in English more than in Hebrew – but as someone who produced extremely meager results. His period is the golden age of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, an era in which both movements gained much strength and made great strides.

Even if this wasn’t the intention (a very senior source who can’t be suspected of being fond of Netanyahu swore to me that the army and Shin Bet security service pushed hard for the gentleman’s demise, precisely now), the events in Gaza dovetailed with the premier’s campaign against the formation of a minority government. In the end, that has become the major nightmare scenario, since it means leaving the Balfour Street residence, becoming reacquainted with the opposition seats in the Knesset and facing a relatively quick trial.

Today, people will still be summing up the fighting down south, but on Sunday the whole episode will be behind us, as though it never happened. Sunday will also mark the start of Kahol Lavan leader Benny Gantz’s last four days to form a government. If the unbelievable does not come to pass – a minority government with Yisrael Beiteinu and the Joint List – Gantz’s mandate will expire, or he will return it meekly to the president.