Commentary. With Netanyahu in charge, the specter of the final showdown will continue to hover like a nightmare over the Middle East.

Netanyahu with his finger on the trigger

The trap has been sprung. Netanyahu will continue to keep his finger on the trigger, pointing his crosshairs at enemies and their allies, reluctant or otherwise. With the attack on the Iranian embassy in Damascus on April 1 (in which a Pasdaran general was killed) and the ensuing Iranian retaliation, largely stopped in the skies above Israel, he has achieved what he wanted: widening the war and sweeping Gaza under the rug and away from media headlines. The Palestinian issue will go on the back burner if he decides to hit the Islamic Republic hard, with a conflict that could expand to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula.

No one will be able to stay out of it – that is the goal of the Israeli premier, who wants to involve everyone, calculating that in this way he will be able to stay in the seat of power at least until the U.S. elections in November. With this recklessly cynical course of action, he immediately got the military support of the United States and those European governments that took part in the operation against the Iranian drones and missiles. And now there is insistent talk of an international anti-Iran coalition.

It is true that the U.S. and the G-7 have said they will not participate in any direct Israeli attack on Tehran. But this is a position that could suddenly change: just imagine what might happen if the eventual counter-attack on Iran is followed by another attack by Tehran against Israel. Netanyahu and his war cabinet have not given up in the slightest on the plan of attacking the ayatollahs again. And, after saying that the U.S. stands by Tel Aviv in an “ironclad” manner, the line between a war of aggression and one of defense would become less and less clear.

For the most part, the leaders of the Western powers have already come out in favor of the Israeli premier and his misguided military adventures. No one except UN Secretary Guterres has condemned the April 1 Israeli attack on Iran’s embassy in Damascus, which violated international law, Iranian sovereignty and Syrian sovereignty as well. In short, they have applied the usual double standard that is the real and deeply rooted reason for the wars in the Middle East. After all, this was to be expected in a region where Westerners invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003, attacked Gaddhafi’s Libya in 2011 and did everything to remove Syria’s Assad from power. Every opportunity to eliminate some Middle Eastern power and make Israel the sole guardian (and atomic power) of the region is worth taking. With Iran, the diplomatic route was abandoned quickly: in 2015, Obama signed the nuclear deal with Tehran – which was hardly followed up in the first place – while Trump had no qualms about getting out of the deal in 2018 and recognizing occupied Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state, against all UN resolutions.

Guess which candidate Netanyahu supports for the U.S. presidency? The truth is that we’re all flouting international law here, so Trump may be the perfect man for the Jewish premier. The tycoon is willing to come to an agreement with Putin, who has invaded another country, and recognize his sphere of influence, but not with the Iran of the ayatollahs, and wants to sweep the issue of a Palestinian state under the rug with the Abraham Accords – which Biden did as well, to tell the truth. This is why Netanyahu is also keeping the current U.S. president in his crosshairs, and at the same time preparing to lobby the U.S. Congress for more than $17 billion in military aid. Perhaps only this could keep him from a “strike” against Tehran, which he would find a way to justify in some way or another. The blackmail aimed at the White House is obvious.

The reality is that when a far-right extremist government like Israel’s current one is entrusted with power, anything can happen. Most importantly, this can include the most predictable of events. First, the Israeli raids will not end in Syria, where there has been an ongoing conflict with Iran referred to in recent years as the “invisible” war: now it can become an increasingly open conflict, in a territory where Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967 and where one can find Russian bases, American bases, Turkish bases, as well as Pasdaran militias, Hezbollah and jihadist groups, including ISIS. A real powder keg. But above all, the Israelis want to punish Hezbollah’s Lebanon, a key ally of Tehran. Here, as happened back in 2006, the casus belli doesn’t even need to be manufactured: it is already there.

And what will the Iranians do? Their launch of hundreds of drones and missiles – struck down by anti-missile defense systems – was aimed at the Ayatollahs’ real “audience”: not so much domestic opinion, ignored or manipulated by propaganda, but Tehran’s allies in the region (Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthi, the Iraqi Shiite militias) and Iran’s Arab adversaries in the region, especially those in the Gulf that Tehran absolutely insists is by rights “Persian,” where the U.S. Sixth Fleet is stationed. But the Iranians, unlike Iraq’s Saddam, have no intention of fighting the “mother of all battles” against Israel and its allies. Their goal is survival in power, just like Netanyahu, who has no intention of taking his finger off the trigger. With him in charge, the specter of the final showdown will continue to hover like a nightmare over the Middle East. The only alternative would be diplomacy, but it inevitably requires finding a solution to the Palestinian drama and the ongoing war in Gaza. Netanyahu doesn’t want that – and are we even sure we do?

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