The Independent’s Mid-East correspondent Bel Trew makes the following claim in an article on recent US recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights (“Golan Heights: How Donald Trump’s tweet saved Netanyahu’s re-election”, March 23).
Normally known for launching wars ahead of elections to ensure the security vote, Mr Netanyahu was also batting off stinging criticism from all sides for not ordering a full military operation in Gaza
This is actually the second time in a week that Trew made some variation of the allegation that Israel’s prime minister launches wars against Hamas in order to secure electoral victories. A March 18th article by Trew on fears that a (evidently accidental) Hamas rocket attack on Tel Aviv could lead to all out war argued that “Israeli incursions into Gaza have been launched ahead of the last three elections…often winning incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu additional votes on a security ticket.”
Trew’s narrative is completely counter-factual.
Israeli Operation Cast Lead began on December 27th, 2008 and ended on January 18th 2009. Ehud Olmert, head of the Kadima Party, was the prime minister who launched the war, not Netanyahu, who didn’t become prime minister until after elections were held the following month.
Operation Protective Edge, from July 8th to Aug. 26th, 2014, was launched by Netanyahu as a response to the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and subsequent Hamas rockets attacks on Israeli cities. However, elections were called in December – due to disagreements within the coalition over the budget and the Jewish state law – with the vote taking place on March 17, 2015. So, the timeline itself contradicts Trew’s claim.
The only war where the timeline is even consistent with Trew’s claim was Operation Pillar of Defense from Nov. 14 to Nov. 22, 2012. The Knesset was suspended in Oct. 2012 and new elections announced which were to take place on Jan. 22 2013. However, that war was launched after more than 100 rockets were fired at Israel in the two-week period prior to Nov. 8th bringing Israeli life in the south to a virtual halt.
Further, the fact that this war ended after only eight days, and without an IDF ground assault, in fact demonstrates a larger point, one that even Haaretz has conceded: that Netanyahu is widely viewed – even amongst his fiercest critics – as extremely risk averse when it comes to launching military offensives. Indeed, it is believed that his restraint during the 2012 war actually cost his party Knesset seats in the subsequent elections. As Haaretz’s Yossi Verter argued, he agreed to a ceasefire early enough to avoid “entangling the Israel Defense Forces in a casualty-heavy and pointless ground offensive in the Strip” and “shut his ears to the loud warmongering by the right wing, including in his own party”.
Another example that contradicts Trew’s claim was the the three-day mini-conflict between Israel and Hamas in November 2018, in which Netanyahu accepted a ceasefire agreement despite the more than 350 rockets launched at Israeli cities, which killed one and injured dozens. The prime minister had in fact rejected calls by some of his ministers to launch an all out war – including Defense Minister Lieberman, who resigned in protest. If Trew’s ‘Wag the Dog‘ conspiratorial scenario were true, surely Netanyahu, plagued by a major corruption scandal, could have used this conflagration to divert attention away from his legal problems by initiating a major military operation to cripple Hamas.
Anshel Pfeffer – another Haaretz journalist who’s an outspoken Bibi critic – has argued, echoing the views of other left-wing commentators, that “despite his warmongering image”, he is very “risk-averse” and, if anything, often avoids wars out of concern that the net political impact of major conflicts are completely unpredictable.
Finally, it’s of course quite telling that the Indy journalist, in the context of this Israel-centric explanation, fails to acknowledge that Hamas actions played a large role in inciting the last few Israel-Gaza wars – an omission consistent with a broader pattern of British media outlets not taking Palestinians seriously as agents of their own fate.
The bottom line is that there is literally no real evidence to support Trew’s assertion that Israeli wars with Hamas were launched for the purpose of improving the governing party’s electoral results.
- Indy piece on Israel cites analysis of fringe conspiracy theorist (UK Media Watch)
- NY Times misrepresents new poll on expulsion (CAMERA)
- What is missing from BBC news bulletins on Gaza protests? (BBC Watch)
- Guardian gets Israeli ‘move right’ completely wrong (UK Media Watch)