Summary: in stoutly backing Israel’s PM, the US and the UK are enabling a politician who in his bid for self-preservation is prepared to plunge the Middle East into a catastrophic regional war.
Is Benjamin Netanyahu poised to don the mantle of the world’s most dangerous man? That’s not to deny Vladimir Putin the moniker but with the Ukraine war in a stalemate the Russian president is not an immediate threat to spark a massive regional war. Donald Trump still has a long journey ahead if he is to get back to the White House. Xi Jinping is far too busy with domestic issues caused by a failing Chinese economy. And Kim Jong Un though he keeps up the drumbeat of threats is small beer when compared to the big three of Putin, Trump and Xi.
Which brings us back to Bibi. His determination to continue the Gaza war while denying any possibility of a two-state solution is built solely on his desire to avoid a conviction and jail time for fraud and corruption. He has no qualms or compunction about the staggering death toll in Gaza now above 25000 nor the more than 300 Palestinians killed in the Occupied West Bank by the IDF and settler vigilantes. He has shown little concern for the Israeli hostages still held in Gaza and no remorse whatsoever for his responsibility in the catastrophic security failures that allowed the Hamas attack. Even his eulogy for the 24 IDF soldiers killed in Khan Younis – the biggest single IDF loss over many decades – had the stench of hypocrisy hanging over it.
Small wonder that the rage of the grieving families of the hostages is reaching boiling point. Netanyahu has backed himself into a corner; his coalition partners the fascist ministers Ben-Gvir and Smotrich are more in control of the game than he is. Their dream of a Greater Israel cleansed of Palestinians is, they fervently believe, within striking distance.
What then makes the Israeli prime minister such a threat to global security? It is, in fact, not the man himself with his overweening arrogance and his urgent wish to avoid prison pajamas. It is rather the enablers. The enabler in chief is the US president Joe Biden backed by his loyal Secretary of State Antony Blinken who scuttles from one Middle East capital to another and back to Israel in a weirdly relentless and utterly ineffectual bid to resurrect the Abraham Accords while calling for Israeli restraint in Gaza even as his boss continues to supply the bombs that are delivering genocidal destruction of the Strip and its people.
In this perverse Alice in Wonderland world truth is stood on its head, reality denied over and over again. The claim that most of Gaza is pacified is undercut by the evidence in front of us as Khan Younis is pummelled and the IDF suffers significant losses. The claim that the military goes out of its way to protect civilians is daily revealed as a grotesque lie. On 24 January a UN shelter in Khan Younis was hit by Israeli tank fire killing at least 20 civilians, an attack the IDF initially denied but then said it was investigating. Yesterday saw the shelling of civilians lining up for humanitarian aid in Gaza City with a death toll of more than 20 and many dozens wounded. Earlier in the week an unarmed civilian under a white flag was killed on the outskirts of Khan Younis. He was shot just after an ITV camera-journalist had finished interviewing him. The entire sequence is captured on film: the interview, the shooting, the attempt to retrieve the body, the victim’s wife rushing forward screaming her grief, the scattering of survivors as the IDF renewed firing on unarmed civilians.
The IDF declared the film had been selectively edited and was an “extension of Hamas propaganda.” When queried in the House of Commons by the SNP on Wednesday Prime Minister Sunak shrugged off the question of whether the shooting constituted a war crime with the now-ritualistic response that “international humanitarian law should be respected and civilians should be protected. I have made that point expressly to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Foreign Secretary is in the region making exactly the same point.” So, to borrow from Private Eye, that’s alright then.
Lord Cameron in his meeting with Netanyahu again presented the two-state solution which again the Israeli PM will brush aside. In his long political career Netanyahu has always sought to destroy the possibility of a viable Palestinian state but it is only in the past few days that he has so nakedly declared his intentions, perhaps in obeisance to the fascists in his government who will bring him down if he even so much as hints he is succumbing to pressure from Washington.
In the midst of this mad and dangerous inversion of reality, the Huthis have increased their attacks in the Red Sea. So much for US and UK strikes that were supposed to cow them. The Huthis have made their position abundantly clear: in return for a ceasefire in Gaza they will cease the targeting of shipping in the Red Sea. Stripped bare it is a muscular call for de-escalation. The response of the US has been to hit back and reinforce the path of escalation. The UK, bizarrely claiming self-defence, has gone along on two of the raiding parties while steadfastly clinging to the fiction that events in the Red Sea have nothing to do with the Gaza war. Both of those reality-warping positions are supported by the opposition Labour Party and its leader Keir Starmer.
The Huthis are now claiming successful ballistic missile attacks on US Navy vessels in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al Mandab straits, a claim which the Americans have denied. It may indeed be a piece of bombastic Huthi propaganda but on the other hand Biden is well aware of the traction Donald Trump gains every time the US enters into another foreign military engagement. Publicly acknowledging the attack on naval vessels would up the ante substantially and risk further embroiling the US in Netanyahu’s war. That’s an outcome the Israeli PM wants to see but it is one that Biden needs to avoid as it becomes clear that after his rival’s New Hampshire primary win Trump will be the GOP presidential candidate in November.
Meanwhile Israel has conducted strikes on the IRGC in Damascus and Hezbollah in Beirut with Netanyahu talking of a long war on several fronts. Even as the Israelis continue to poke and prod them, the Iranians want to avoid an all-out war. But should Teheran’s patience snap the war that Bibi wants will become reality. So yes that would make him the world’s most dangerous man.