Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Image Credit: AP

Israel’s relentless war on Gaza is not showing any sign that it is nearing an end. Despite stern warnings from the US administration, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is determined to launch a ground offensive on Rafah, the last “safe” refuge for over a million Gazans who have nowhere else to go. For him, the Rafah offensive is a must if Israel is to secure a conclusive victory over Hamas. However, American and some Israeli security experts disagree.

After six months of what has been described as a “genocidal war” on Gaza, Israel is finding itself increasingly isolated on the international stage. Today, it is the US that continues to provide political and military cover for the war, all while citing the dire humanitarian catastrophe that has unfolded in Gaza. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently declared that “100 per cent of the population in Gaza is at severe levels of acute food insecurity.”

Israel has been blamed by UN relief agencies and humanitarian organisations active in Gaza for hindering the flow of aid convoys. In contrast, others have accused it of targeting civilians seeking to reach aid trucks. Meanwhile, there are hundreds of videos and testimonies implicating Israeli soldiers in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Israel is facing genocide charges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and, after much dithering, the International Criminal Court (ICC) is finally moving to investigate allegations of such crimes by Israel in Gaza.

Read more by Osama Al Sharif

Immediate and sustainable ceasefire

The tide has turned since 7 October, when scores of Western leaders flew to Israel to support its war on Gaza under the claim that Israel has the right to defend itself. But as raw videos of civilian victims, including women and children, began to surface on social media platforms, global public opinion called out the Israeli genocidal war.

With harrowing images coming out of Gaza, Western leaders began to walk back to their initial positions. Today, the European Union (EU) leaders call for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire in Gaza. Canada, Australia, Japan, and others have also amended their stand.

At the UN, and after four US vetoes against draft resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire, Washington tabled its own draft resolution on Friday with vague and conditional reference to a ceasefire. Russia and China vetoed the resolution.

In the US, Israel’s war on Gaza has become a hot election issue for the Democrats. Young and progressive Democrat voters pressure President Joe Biden to rectify his policy. Support for Israel has become a partisan issue, with Republicans rallying to defend Israel, even when public opinion in the US is shifting against the war and Israel’s profound influence on domestic US politics through pressure groups like AIPAC.

While Netanyahu and his Far Right coalition partners are vowing to continue with the war, the Israeli public is also polarised. While the majority supports the war, they also want Netanyahu to submit to a deal that would return Israeli captives. Netanyahu has rejected all deals, including those brokered by the US, saying that he would not cave into Hamas’ “ludicrous terms.”

A pariah state

But the Israeli public knows that Netanyahu is extending the war only to save his skin. A majority of Israelis want an immediate election to be held. Netanyahu’s Likud party will lose seats to a right-of-centre coalition led by Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu’s intransigence and his insistence on carrying out the war with no regard for external pressure are turning Israel into a pariah state. On his eighth visit to the region since the war started, Blinken delivered a stern message from the Biden White House. He told Netanyahu and the war cabinet that Israel’s security and its place in the world are in peril, and “you might not realise it until it’s too late.”

His message came after Canada’s parliament voted to suspend arms sales to Israel while the UK threatened to do the same. The Biden administration had asked Israel for a written commitment regarding the use of US-made weapons in Gaza.

Last week, Spain, Ireland, Malta, and Slovenia agreed to work towards achieving Palestinian state recognition within a set framework. The UK has also hinted that it is considering a similar move. Similarly, several countries have now resumed their funding of UNRWA after Israel failed to provide evidence that the UN agency was complicit in the 7 October attack.

An offensive on Rafah could become a breaking point for Israel’s ties with its Western allies. Israel has failed to deliver a plan for the mass relocation of Gazans from Rafah as well as committing to calls to end its occupation of the enclave or hand over responsibility of administration to the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Netanyahu and his radical partners have also rejected calls to engage in negotiations to revive the two-state solution. On the contrary, the Israeli Far Right is pushing for annexation of Gaza and expropriating more West Bank territory.

The more the Gaza war drags on, the more Israel finds itself in isolation and being treated as a pariah. No one would have imagined such a scenario unfolding after 7 October. Netanyahu and his coalition partners have done more damage to Israel’s image and place in the world than any of its enemies in its seven decades of existence.

The world will never go back to the pre-7 October state. The war on Gaza has changed all that. Israel is at a dangerous fork in the road, and the extremists are pushing it to choose the wrong path.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.