How Netanyahu's plan to divide Palestinians using Hamas backfired

Israel's PM wanted Qatar's money to get to Hamas; he wanted to ensure Hamas stayed alive—all to avoid a stable Palestine state. Now, Israelis confront the flaws in his plan

A  pro-Palestine demonstration upholds the phrase 'from the river to the sea', the demand for a free Palestinian state; other placards call for 'Ceasefire Now! Release the Hostages' and to 'Stop the Humanitarian Crisis' (photo: DW)
A pro-Palestine demonstration upholds the phrase 'from the river to the sea', the demand for a free Palestinian state; other placards call for 'Ceasefire Now! Release the Hostages' and to 'Stop the Humanitarian Crisis' (photo: DW)
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DW

When it comes to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the approach taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been to reverently uphold the status quo.

Despite his famous Bar-Ilan speech in 2009, in which he agreed in principle to the establishment of a Palestinian state, Netanyahu's actions have shown that he, and indeed, his governments, are more interested in perpetuating the inner-Palestinian conflict between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization — even at the price of keeping Hamas alive.

According to the right wing-conservative website Mida, Netanyahu told his Likud party in 2019 that allowing Qatari money to reach Hamas was key to preventing a Palestinian state.

"It's part of our strategy: to create a separation between the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank," he said.

Over the years, large parts of Israeli society were rather indifferent to the prime minister's approach. In post-October 7 Israel, however, the situation has changed.

Different solutions needed

One of the most repeated phrases in Israel after the horrors of the October 7 Hamas terror attacks is 'shinui konsepzia', meaning 'conception change'. People expect solutions that differ from those offered to them up until October 6 from both sides of Israel's political divide.

And Netanyahu has failed to offer any such solutions so far.

It needs to be said, however, that, as pointed out by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, large parts of Israeli society currently fail to believe that a solution to the conflict even exists.

Seeking opposing outcomes

As liberal and left-wing Israelis call for elections to take place and for Netanyahu to be replaced, his government, which includes far-right elements, is trying to make use of the war to reestablish the settlements that Israel evacuated in 2005 when it left Gaza.

While Netanyahu himself has kept on repeating that Israel has no intention of doing that, his coalition partners, headed by the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, have been going from one TV studio to another calling for solutions such as 'voluntary migration' of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Ben-Gvir's rise also reflects how Netanyahu has lost control over his government.

In the past, radical elements of Israel's right wing were clearly denounced by all other political parties, including Likud. Netanyahu openly supported Ben-Gvir — Israel's best-known far-right figure, twice convicted of supporting a terrorist organization — for the sake of his own political survival and has legitimised him in the process.

Now, polls show that while support for Netanyahu himself keeps on dwindling, Itamar Ben-Gvir's far-right Otzma Yehudit party is expected to receive even more parliamentary seats than its current six.

Whatever happens, Israeli society post-October 7 is going to be very, very different than it was on October 6, both politically and otherwise, and Netanyahu's most recent statements about Israel having to control the Gaza Strip the day after the war will be judged accordingly.


Netanyahu's place in history will be determined by two questions: Is Hamas still a threat to Israel? And can the hostages return safely?

If his government fails to fulfil the goals it has stated to the public, Netanyahu — Israel's longest-serving prime minister and a politician who has often said he'd like to be remembered as "Israel's defender" — will leave a legacy of bringing about the first war the country has lost.

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