Opinion | The wrong leader for the wrong region at the wrong time
Bibi Netanyahu has an innocent-sounding first name. But he is the danger man for a dangerous region. Even an avid supporter like Trump knows that "Bibi doesn't want peace." On and off, for the 16 years he has occupied Israel's highest office, he has butchered tens of thousands of Palestinians. Under him, Gaza has endured a 16-year blockade, with its 2 million-plus population languishing in a virtual concentration camp. Now, Netanyahu threatens to Hiroshima it with a massive non-nuclear ground invasion.
This is a cruel irony. Six million Jews were massacred by the genocidal Nazis. I have no problem with Jewish people protecting themselves or even calling themselves "God's chosen people". They are ultra-smart overachievers. No one should begrudge them their success. But they are risking it all under a reckless, radical-right brutish leader who likes the taste of blood. He has the subtlety of a bulldozer and a backyard bully. Unfortunately, despite domestic opposition and charges of corruption, Netanyahu seems to have nine political lives, always resurrecting himself when he is all but written off. The Bibi problem is a tragic failure of the democratic system.
Make no mistake. The man is wily. He played the dim-witted Trump like a fiddle. Knowing that the Donald is a golf addict, he used golf metaphors when talking to the former US president. He famously told Trump that "Peace with the Emirates is a five-foot putt. Peace with the Saudis is a 30-foot putt, and peace with the Palestinians is a hole-in-one through a brick wall." Trump is easily bored, with no patience for lengthy reports. That's why Netanyahu graphically compared the border that Palestinians demanded to its distance to Tel Aviv as that between Trump Tower and George Washington Bridge. It was Netanyahu who bamboozled Trump into scuttling the Iran Nuclear deal. He had Trump eating out of his palm.
The looming Gaza genocide, however, may be politically the last nail in Bibi's coffin. It will unleash a wave of uncontrolled fury among his Arab neighbors, with a regional spillover into a wider war. Besides, he is messing up America's geopolitical chess game in the Middle East. The rest of the Arab world will not sit idly by when the slaughter begins. By choking off the supply of food, fuel, water and medicines, Netanyahu is guilty of crimes against humanity. He is turning Gaza into a mass grave. America's solo veto at the UN Security Council on the establishment of a humanitarian corridor for Gaza has forever buried its legitimacy as a moral leader, with zero political capital left. Even Jews in America are up in arms about this connivance. America can no longer be trusted as an honest broker. Bibi has hijacked Biden's agenda for the region. And Biden has clumsily dropped the ball, proving that he is too old to walk and chew gum at the same time. An unrestrained Netanyahu may ultimately derail his re-election bid.
For most, the last straw is the bombing of a Gaza hospital that has snuffed out the lives of nearly 800 innocent civilians. No one, except the US, believes Israel's claim that it was caused by a misfiring Hamas rocket. After all, Israel has a terrible record in previous mass killings of civilians, including the bombing of a packed UN civilian shelter in Gaza.
The world wants a two-state solution. But after decades of land grabs and aggressive illegal settlements, there are only crumbs left for a Palestinian state. Most of it is occupied territory. Subsisting in a state of permanent subjugation and degradation, the Palestinians are bound to erupt periodically in desperate counter-attacks, the latest being the most daring and deadly. There will never be peace in the region as long as this intolerable status quo prevails. Where are the likes of Nobel Peace Prize winner Simone Perez and Golda Meir, wise Israeli leaders who knew how to co-exist in peace with its neighbors? Netanyahu is wrong for Israel, and wrong for the region. The region can't afford this serial warmonger. Another day he stays in power is one day too many.