Commentary. Netanyahu, who, as we have been repeating for months, sees the war as the only way for him to stay in power.

A macabre and tenuous negotiation to end the war

How will it end? In Rafah, one of the most heartrending dramas in the contemporary world is unfolding day after day, after months of massacres and carnage, the 1,200 Israeli deaths on October 7, the 35,000 Palestinians killed, 70 percent of them women and children, including the Jewish hostages (of whom no one really knows how many are still alive). It is a question on everyone’s mind, even the most indifferent, because one senses that here, as on the Ukraine front, our future will be decided, as well as how we will be perceived as a credible Western civilization by the global South.

At this point, the situation appears to be that of an agonizing stalemate, more and more catastrophic for the Palestinians.

This is from a humanitarian point of view, and one of pure survival. The people keep dying, with and without bombs: beside the bullets, hunger and disease are themselves enough to eliminate the Palestinians and reduce the whole people to ghosts wandering amid the rubble of Gaza. It is a material and moral degradation that directly targets their ability to resist, the very idea that they are able to exist as a people and as a nation. That’s why they call it genocide.

This is not a technical or legal definition – that matter is being examined by international institutions. It is the reality of the facts, it is a political judgment that moves, or should move, consciences to action. There is negotiating and fighting in anticipation of an Israeli military offensive or a ceasefire, as if this new form of creeping slaughter, still ongoing under a temporary suspension, were the natural state of things. But the feeling is that none of the players on the ground, neither Netanyahu nor Hamas, cares much about the casualties. They are playing a different game: that of political survival. This applies first of all to Bibi Netanyahu, who, as we have been repeating for months, sees the war as the only way for him to stay in power.

But is that really true? It largely is; however, perhaps the situation is more complicated and the choice less stark than it would seem at first glance: either war or exit. In reality, Netanyahu – caught between the frying pan and the fire with the pressure from both the extremist right and Biden, as Michele Giorgio wrote on Wednesday – is aiming to manage the war, but also a possible ceasefire, which, given the precedents of the past decades, will never be a final one.

In truth, the state of war in the Palestinian territories is perpetual: every day, for half a century, Israeli governments have been conducting war operations, seizing the land of Arabs, erecting walls, cutting off roads, eliminating the most basic rights, stifling the freedom of movement and thought: this is a colonialist state that has implemented an unsustainable system of apartheid. The ultimate goal is to drive out the Palestinians, not to make peace with them and live in two separate states. That is why the current negotiations have something of the macabre as well as the tenuous, if we look at the goals of this government and at what Zionism has become in the hands of the most radical and extremist parties.

In reality, the Israeli premier has been in power for 20 years – a kind of Arab raìs, in this case Jewish, confirmed by election after elections, maneuvering the levers of power through corruption and manipulating domestic and international public opinion for decades, including anti-Semitism, as accurately pointed out by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democrat and a Jew. He has a short-term and not-so-distant goal: to make it through the U.S. elections in November, since if Trump wins things will certainly be better for him than with the current U.S. administration, which he has been treating as a kind of doormat.

Trump is the one who recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state against every U.N. resolution, as well as Israeli sovereignty over the Syrian Golan occupied since 1967. He was the mediator of the Abraham Accords with the Arab monarchies, aimed at burying the prospect of a Palestinian state. Biden inherited this “package deal,” accepting a worldview so short-sighted and bankrupt that just a few days before October 7, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan declared that “the Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.”

And so it was that Biden and his people fell into the Gaza trap, blackmailed continuously, with an administration in the midst of an electoral campaign and declining in approval ratings, to the point of lavishing Israel with billions of dollars in military aid, and then arriving at the current freeze on bomb deliveries to Tel Aviv that appears to be nothing more than a clumsy attempt to save face.

On the other side is Hamas, which will obviously not disappear with the incineration of Gaza. The Islamist movement has been adept at throwing the ball back into the Israeli camp during negotiations, even though the U.S. has now asked Qatar, where they maintain a military base, to eliminate Hamas’s presence. But to do so would mean antagonizing the Muslim Brotherhood, which Qatar has always protected. It would mean getting into conflict with Iran and its allies who are still sticking with Hamas, which at the time of the Syrian civil war sided against Assad.

The so-called “axis of resistance,” as Tehran and the Shiite Hezbollah militias call it, is feared by Israel but even more so by the Arab states, unmoved in the face of the Gaza massacre. Like Europe, they too have not passed even the slightest sanction against Israel. And they too must ensure their survival. So, how will it all end? As always, it’s certainly not going to end with these macabre and precarious negotiations.

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