Home » Opinion | Netanyahu Is Making Israel Radioactive

Opinion | Netanyahu Is Making Israel Radioactive

by Marko Florentino
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In other words, Israel has a prime minister who apparently would rather see Gaza devolve into Somalia, ruled by warlords, and risk Israel’s military gains in dismantling Hamas than partner with the Palestinian Authority or any legitimate, broad-based, non-Hamas Palestinian governing body — because his far-right cabinet allies, who dream of Israel controlling all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, including Gaza, will oust him from power if he does.

Netanyahu’s government is apparently hoping to enlist local Palestinian clan leaders to post-Hamas Gaza, but I seriously doubt that will work. Israel tried and failed that strategy in the West Bank in the 1980s, as these locals were often stigmatized as collaborators and never gained governing traction.

I confess that as I contemplated all of this from the border, I had two flashbacks that were sort of daytime nightmares.

The first was remembering how the U.S. invaded Iraq with the aim of building a new democratic order to replace Saddam Hussein’s tyranny, which I supported. But when it came to implementation, the Bush administration broke the Iraqi Army and the ruling Baath Party with no coherent plan for creating better alternative governance. This turned many anti-Hussein Iraqis against the U.S. and created the conditions for the anti-U.S. insurgency.

I summarized all of this in a column published on April 9, 2003. It was 20 days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and I had entered the country with a team from the Kuwaiti Red Cross that was delivering medical supplies to the main hospital in the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. There were three things I noticed almost immediately: how few U.S. or allied troops were around keeping order, what chaos this was producing and how sullen the people were. I wrote it this way:

It’s hard to smile when there’s no water. It’s hard to applaud when you’re frightened. It’s hard to say, “Thank you for liberating me,” when liberation has meant that looters have ransacked everything from the grain silos to the local school, where they even took away the blackboard. … It would be idiotic to even ask Iraqis here how they felt about politics. They are in a prepolitical, primordial state of nature. For the moment, Saddam has been replaced by Hobbes, not Bush.

I added that I had gone in with members of a Kuwaiti relief team, “who, taking pity on the Iraqis, tossed out extra food from a bus window as we left. The Umm Qasr townsfolk scrambled after that food … jostling for breadcrumbs. This was a scene of humiliation, not liberation. We must do better.”

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