By Finian Cunningham
November 24/25, 2019 "Information
Clearing House" - It
seems more than coincidence that as the legal
noose tightens around Prime Minister Benjamin
“Bibi” Netanyahu, Israeli military have suddenly
stepped up air strikes on Iranian forces based
Playing the strongman role on national
security and winning another term as prime
minister would stave off prosecution over
If Netanyahu is ousted from office he will be
immediately subjected to trial. A subsequent
conviction on all charges could result in him
facing up to 13 years in jail. A lot is at stake
for Israel’s elder statesmen. At 70 years old,
he is the longest-serving prime minister in the
history of the Israeli state, having been
elected four times already.
Therefore the longer he can hang on as
premier, the longer he can postpone his day in
court, as the leadership position affords a
certain immunity while in office.
Israel’s current political impasse is a
particularly dangerous time for Netanyahu. After
two elections held earlier this year, neither
Netanyahu nor his nearest rival Benny Gantz have
been able to form a coalition government.
Netanyahu is still the sitting PM. But lawmakers
could vote for a new prime minister in the next
few weeks, or else failing that the country will
be forced to go to a third election in March
Either way, Netanyahu needs to stay in office
if he wants to throw the prosecution trial into
the long grass. That means the temptation will
be ever-stronger for the hot-headed
commando-turned-politician to rile up security
tensions with Iran and Syria, as well as
neighboring Palestinians. Netanyahu has always
drummed up votes by presenting himself as the
great defender of Israelis.
Over the past week, as a three-year criminal
investigation concluded with charges being
leveled against Netanyahu for bribery, fraud
and abuse of power for favorable media
influence, Israeli forces under his command
launched deadly air strikes against Iranian
targets in Syria. Reports
indicated that around 23 people were killed,
most of whom were Iranian military belonging to
the elite Quds Force. Though Syrian media
claimed that most of the attacks were
intercepted. Whether Iranian personnel were
killed or not, the Israeli intention is to
Notably, Israeli military usually do not
confirm or deny when they carry out air strikes
on Syria or neighboring countries. This week,
however, Israeli leaders including Netanyahu
were bragging about the strikes.
Netanyahu said: “I have made clear that any
who attack us, we will attack them. That is what
we did tonight [November 20] toward military
targets of the Iranian Quds Force and Syrian
The Israelis claim they were
responding to rockets fired from the
Golan Heights. But it seems those
rockets were provoked by earlier Israeli
strikes on Syria just days before.
There is more than a suspicion that Israel
was orchestrating the pretext for a flare up in
violence. The purpose being to allow Netanyahu
to dust off his war medals and flex his muscles
for the electorate.
Such a ploy is in keeping with how Netanyahu
over recent months has been cranking up the
bellicose rhetoric. Before the elections this
year in March and September, he has been
declaring that if he is re-elected his
government would annex large swathes of the
Palestinian territory in the West Bank. In spite
of international law and UN resolutions
designating Israeli settlements as illegal.
US President Donald Trump obliged Netanyahu’s
electioneering when the White House
announced on November 18 that Washington was
henceforth recognizing all Israeli settlements
on Palestinian territory as legitimate. Was this
Trump shifting US policy to help bail out his
friend Bibi, knowing that the indictment sheet
was on the way?
Over the past month, Israeli forces have also
escalated air strikes on Gaza with dozens of
civilians being killed, including families and
children. Netanyahu has been cynically winding
up fears among Israelis of rocket attacks from
Palestinian militants in the besieged Gaza
strip. A densely populated area of 1.8 million
people subsisting in poverty, deprived of fresh
water and electricity, due to Israel’s military
But in ginning up tensions with Iran in such
a provocative way by targeting its elite Quds
Force in Syria, Netanyahu is playing with fire.
condemned the Israeli air strikes on Syria
last week as unlawful aggression. The Russian
foreign ministry warned that such acts were
risking a wider conflict in the region.
Again, Trump seems to be aiding and abetting
Netanyahu’s agenda of inciting national security
tensions with Iran in order to hand Netanyahu a
get-out-of-jail card. No doubt Trump knows the
feeling as lawmakers in Washington push an
impeachment inquiry into his alleged abuse of
authority for favors regarding Ukraine.
The dramatic eruption of street violence in
Iran over the past week has seen provocateurs
hijack public protests over fuel price
increases. The rapid spread of arson attacks on
public property and shooting dead of several
Iranian security force members indicate a
foreign role in agitation.
President Trump and his Secretary of State
Mike Pompeo issued stark
statements of interference in Iranian
internal affairs, by encouraging further street
disturbances, hypocritically claiming that the
US “was standing with the Iranian people”.
Brian Hook, the White House’s special envoy
for Iran, even went as far as openly
admitting that the US has been working for
the past 18 months on finding ways of helping
anti-government activists to circumvent internet
restrictions imposed by the Iranian authorities
to quell the spread of disturbances.
“We have been able to get into the hands of
the Iranian people circumvention tools that
allow them to communicate with each other when
the regime tries to censor them,” said Hook.
Last week, Trump
told Congress that he was sending 3,000 US
troops to Saudi Arabia to “prevent Iranian
provocation”, another move which Russia slammed
as provoking regional tensions. Meanwhile, the
USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike
group entered the Persian Gulf.
Trump and Netanyahu seem to be working
hand-in-hand to ratchet up tensions with Iran.
Evidently, Netanyahu is betting that the sound
of war drums will drown out the calls for his
prosecution trial over corruption charges. But
rather than facing justice, the Israeli leader
seems prepared to ignite a war with Iran just to
save his own hide.
has written extensively on international
affairs, with articles published in several
languages. He is a Master’s graduate in
Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a
scientific editor for the Royal Society of
Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a
career in newspaper journalism. He is also a
musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he
worked as an editor and writer in major news
media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish
Times and Independent.
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