netanyahu wars gaza elections cartoon
© Carlos Latuff/Mondoweiss
In a move that should have surprised absolutely no one, Israel has vigorously escalated its aggression in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza in the past several weeks. Israel has been dangerously provocative towards Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, particularly in East Jerusalem.

For the past six months, residents of the Issawiya neighborhood of East Jerusalem have been subjected to daily raids, arrests and beatings, and constant drone surveillance, culminating in the killing of 20-year-old Mohammad Samir Obeid at the hands of Israeli forces. Obeid was shot dead while holding his hands up in the air and waving a white cloth. 80 Palestinians were injured in subsequent protests due an exceedingly violent response by Israeli forces.

Now - under Netanyahu's orders - the Israeli military has vigorously escalated its aggression in Gaza in an effort to provoke a war that will allow Netanyahu to gain immunity from prosecution.

The renewed offensive began following two assassination attempts carried out by Israel on Tuesday, with the death toll rising to 34 in Gaza since then - no Israeli casualties have been reported.

While this may seem like another round of violence in a seemingly endless occupation, the timing could not be better for Netanyahu and his allies. After failing to form a coalition government - being forced to hand the mandate over to Gantz - Netanyahu was left with a dilemma in his hands, as Gantz is unwilling to sit in a government coalition with him in power.

Hence, Netanyahu employed a tactic he has used time after time, with near consistent results, to stay in power: start a war in Gaza. By fearmongering the threat of the complete destruction of Israel by the factions in Gaza, forcing the Israeli population to rally behind him and support his image of a strong and capable leader.

Netanyahu undertook this strategy in the 2014 Gaza offensive, which saw 2,100 Palestinians lose their lives, 1,500 of which were civilians, and 11,000 injured, mostly civilians as well, according to Human Rights Watch. In the elections the following year, Netanyahu saw his Likud party gain a whopping 12 seats, bringing their total to 30.

This time, Netanyahu is provoking a war in Gaza not to gain more seats, as the election already ended, but to force the hand of Gantz and his allies to include Netanyahu's Likud in a unity government coalition, in order for Netanyahu to receive immunity from being prosecuted over the numerous corruption cases opened against him.

Gantz, who's policies and views differ from Netanyahu's in no way at all, gave a statement in support of Israel's assassination strike on Tuesday, adding, "this action will have no effect on the political processes taking place." However, that could not be further from the truth. Gantz already has no hope for his so called "centrist" government coalition, as the only way for that to take place would require the support of the Joint List, which Gantz has repeatedly stated will not be in the coalition as he is unwilling to sit down and meaningfully discuss the matter with Palestinian lawmakers.
Benjamin Netanyahu (lijevo) i Benny Gantz

Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz
In addition, Netanyahu has stated that the ensuing operation in Gaza "could take a long time," according to the Times of Israel, further pressuring Gantz to form a unity government with him. Furthermore, Netanyahu does not want to go to a third round of elections, as that would be the final blow to his party, who will most likely lose even more seats. It is also worth nothing that Gantz does not want a third round of elections either, as that would lead to a newly energized Palestinian population to head out and vote, causing the Joint List to gain even more seats.

With Netanyahu forcing Gantz's hand, and with neither party wanting a third round of elections, it seems more and more likely that a unity government between Blue and White and the Likud will be the resolution to the political statement in the country.

This would mean that MK Ayman Odeh, Chairman of the Joint List, would become the leader of the opposition - the worst case scenario for Netanyahu and Gantz, as that position will grant Odeh access top secret briefings on highly sensitive topics such as covert military operations and defense initiatives by the government. Additionally, by becoming the leading opposition party, Joint List members would be placed in highly sensitive Knesset committees as well, such as the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Therefore, Netanyahu and his right wing bloc are attempting to pass a so-called "Ayman Odeh" Bill, which would effectively state that if the leader of opposition is a non-Jewish minority, they will be barred from briefings on sensitive matters. While the chances of it passing, or even being introduced, are unclear, one thing is certain. If Netanyahu and Gantz form a unity government, the first bill they will attempt to pass will be one that would unlawfully and undemocratically strip MK Odeh and the Palestinians from the rightful position and power they earned in the government.
Naim Mousa is a Palestinian citizen of Israel, currently living in New York. He is the Media Director of the Friends of Mossawa, a US-based sister organization to the Haifa-based Mossawa Center, which advocates for the rights of Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel.