Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel is “storming towards victory”. The same language is being used by Western leaders such as US president Joe Biden and Rishi “we want you to win” Sunak.
But what does “victory” mean? There’s lots of talking about destroying Hamas. This is entirely typical of colonial regimes waging counter-insurgency wars. But usually they fail to achieve this objective. Hamas’ strength comes from its roots in the oppressed Palestinian population, not only in Gaza, which it has controlled since 2007.
Remember it won the last Palestinian elections in 2006 — a result that was immediately cancelled because it contradicted what Israel and the West wanted.
Even in the very unlikely event that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) succeeded in destroying Hamas, the oppressed condition of the Palestinian people would throw up new resistance movements.
Since its existence the State of Israel has depended on the dispossession of the Palestinians. The only choice facing its rulers is perpetual war—or the extermination or expulsion of Palestinians. This helps to explain the genocidal language used by many Israeli politicians.
They evoke what Le Monde newspaper calls “the fantasy of the Israeli extreme right ‘the transfer’, the expulsion of Palestinians from ‘Greater Israel’, towards Jordan and Egypt.
“An impossible project at the moment, but which is becoming normalised at a staggering speed.”
Already Zionist settlers have reacted to the 7 October attacks by driving Bedouin herders—545 so far, according to the United Nations—from the West Bank into Jordan.
This is the acceleration of a process that has been going on for several years with the support of the Israeli military. It could mean Palestinians are expelled across the border with Egypt into the Sinai desert.
Egypt’s military dictatorship is resisting Israeli and United States pressure to open the border. Mass expulsions from Gaza would probably be too much for even the most compliant Arab regimes. Israel’s defence minister Yoav Gallant has said Gaza will be physically isolated once the Israeli military ground offensive has completed. This would mean no end to the perpetual war as the resistance rebuilds in Gaza.
Biden’s policy of literally embracing Netanyahu, flying to Israel as an act of solidarity, moving two aircraft carrier groups to the area and supplying yet more weapons to the Israeli forces serves several functions.
He hopes that this support will allow him to restrain Netanyahu’s far right government from widening the war. The measures also underline the warnings to Hamas’s main allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamic Republic regime in Iran, to stay out.
My guess is that the war won’t spread. Hezbollah and Iran will probably be guided by the thinking expressed in the saying attributed to Napoleon, “never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake”.
It’s not just that Biden is backing Israel in an unwinnable war. He’s also diverting resources from and undermining support for the proxy war he’s already waging in Ukraine.
The US and the European Union were already struggling to win the backing of the more powerful states in the Global South against Russia.
Even before 7 October, the contradiction between denunciations of Russia’s illegal occupation of eastern Ukraine and its attacks on civilians and infrastructure and their support for Israel was too flagrant.
Yet, in what seems like sheer folly, Biden and his secretary of state Anthony Blinken are now linking the two wars, saying that both Vladimir Putin and Hamas “want completely to annihilate a neighbouring democracy”.The Financial Times newspaper reports that the strident backing for Netanyahu by Biden and European commission president Ursula von der Leyen has caused a massive backlash.
It quotes a “senior G7 diplomat—“We have definitely lost the battle in the Global South. All the work we have done with the Global South (over Ukraine) has been lost… They won’t ever listen to us again.” There are plenty of uncertainties about this latest Middle East war. But the probability is that it will further weaken the global grip of US imperialism.