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rafah is netanyahus last fig leaf
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Rafah is Netanyahu’s last fig leaf

Rafah is not a military base, nor does it have any geopolitical significance. It is, however, Netanyahu’s last chance for political survival and exoneration from criminal charges. Rafah’s only symbolic importance is being a potential gateway to forcibly exile Palestinians from Gaza. Thus, Netanyahu’s vision of “total victory” entails the complete occupation and then the systemic ethnic cleansing of as many Palestinians as possible through the only international crossing connecting Gaza with an Arab country. Over the past five months, the population in the city of Rafah has ballooned five folds. Like the Israeli-induced famine in Gaza, the increase of population was also by an Israeli design. At the onset of the Israeli genocidal campaign, Rafah, located at Gaza’s southernmost edge along the border with Egypt, was dubiously designated as a “safe zone.” Civilians were coercively instructed by Israel to relocate southward under the guise of cynical pretexts. Early during Israel’s genocide campaign and during an interview with MSNBC last November, Mark Regev, “chief disinformation” adviser to Israeli Prime Minister, told his interviewer “We’re asking people to relocate … we don’t want to see civilians caught up in the crossfire.” He further underscored his confidence stating that he was “pretty sure” they “won’t have to move again.” READ: Netanyahu approves Rafah attack plans despite international warnings In his trademark disingenuous display of compassion, Regev explained that by relocating people to the border with Egypt, close to the Rafah border crossing, aid could reach them “as quickly as possible.” Just as in Israel’s false claim of a command centre to justify a military raid on Gaza’s main hospital, Regev’s brazen remarks during the interview displayed shameless insolence, banking on the American mainstream media, particularly MSNBC, reluctance to challenge his blatant lies. Those who dared to, Mehdi Hasan for example, found his show on MSNBC canceled. It took the West four months following Regev’s false assurances, and more than 100,000 Palestinians killed or injured, and the imminent starvation of 2.4 million before they realised they were taken for a ride by the Israeli hasbara. It is this reality that could possibly explain the sudden apprehension among American and Western officials regarding Israel’s real intention in the city of Rafah. On Sunday 24 March, the French President Emmanuel Macron warned Netanyahu that any forceful displacement of people from Rafah would constitute “a war crime.” Almost simultaneously, and marking a significant departure from past positions, the United States refrained from vetoing a UN Security Council resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. This was also followed by strong statements from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday, 26 March, who conveyed to his Israeli counterpart, “… the number of civilian casualties is far too high and the amount of humanitarian aid is far too low … Gaza is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe and the situation is getting even worse.” Although there is a noticeable shift in tone among leaders who lined up to bless Netanyahu’s genocidal war in response to the 7 October revolt— much like Nat Turner’s rebellion against injustice in 1831— one cannot help but question the sincerity of their change of heart. Where was Macron three months earlier when 1.4 million civilians were forcibly displaced from their homes in northern Gaza, only to have their residences destroyed? Did he seriously believe Regev’s false-hearted grace to bring people closer to the (blocked) aid? Regarding the Biden administration, which had previously vetoed every UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for a ceasefire, it took no time to appease and placate Netanyahu’s expressed wrath. Immediately after the UN vote, National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby stepped up to the podium backpedalling asserting that the UNSC resolution held no significance, deeming it “non-binding” with “no change to what Israel can or can’t do.” WATCH: ‘Why do you support genocide in Gaza? You and the entire Biden administration!’ Despite this, the ingrate Israeli leader scolded the White House by cancelling a scheduled trip for Israeli officials to Washington to discuss Israeli plans in Rafah. Instead of retaliating by sending back Netanyahu’s war minister, Pentagon officials obediently listened to the Israeli minister’s long shopping list for additional US weapons to sustain the genocidal war. Meanwhile, the White House scrambled to assuage Netanyahu and reschedule the Israeli visit. . Netanyahu rubbed Biden’s nose in a manner unprecedented among US allies, especially considering Israel’s status as the foremost beneficiary of US foreign aid and its access to cutting-edge weapon technology as soon as it enters the US military’s inventory. It’s mind boggling how Netanyahu can get away with insulting the US without facing any consequences. Yet, Netanyahu’s arrogance didn’t happen in a vacuum. He once boasted in a video that “America Is a thing you can move very easily.” While it’s a fact that Netanyahu has been manipulating and milking American taxpayers for decades, he wasn’t the first Israeli leader to do so. In 1967, Israeli defence minister Moshe Dayan told a visiting American Zionist leader “Our American friends offer us money, arms and advice … We take the money, we take the arms, and we decline the advice.” More than any other Israeli leader, Netanyahu has mastered the art of humiliating American officials to get his way and ultimately exert control over them by portraying them as inept and weak. Case in point, in 2010, then Vice President Biden was blindsided during his visit to Tel Aviv when Netanyahu challenged US opposition by announcing plans to construct hundreds of new homes in the “Jewish-only” colony of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem. More recently, Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced another humiliating moment when Israel welcomed him with the seizure of 2000 acres for a future “Jewish-only” colony on occupied Palestinian land. Even though Blinken travelled from Saudi Arabia as part of US diplomatic efforts to normalise relations between the Kingdom and the Zionist entity, Netanyahu sidelined American pains to reward Israeli genocide with the Saudi normalisation when the Secretary of State expressed concerns regarding Israeli plans in Rafah. According to news reports, Netanyahu, with a sense of entitlement, cut Blinken short telling him: “US support for Rafah op welcomed but not needed.” READ: Biden quietly signs off on more bombs, warplanes for Israel To that end, the US Administration as well as Israeli military leaders such as ex military chief of staff, and current war cabinet minister Gadi Eisenkot, believe that Netanyahu’s assertion of “total victory” by invading Rafah is a hogwash. But irrespective of the US position, Netanyahu treats American advice like a buffet, cherry-picking what suits him and leaving the fallout of his actions for the US to clean up. Regrettably, AIPAC castrated American politicians have an abject proclivity to clean after Israel no matter how reprehensible or morally repugnant. A version of this article appeared on Al Mayadeen TV on 31 March 2024. The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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