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Israel lacks ‘realistic goals’ in campaign against Hamas: Ex-Israeli government adviser

"We have been here before, not only in Palestine, but around the world. You can't crush a people fighting for their rights militarily. There will only be a political way out of this. So, Israel has not defined for itself realistic goals." Daniel Levy, a former senior Israeli government adviser, told Anadolu.

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published November 02,2023
(AA Photo)

Israel's response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas has so far been centered on a devastating assault on the Gaza Strip, the besieged enclave governed by the Palestinian group.

A relentless campaign of airstrikes and bombardment has now claimed nearly 9,000 Palestinian lives, including close to 6,000 women and children.

Despite vehement condemnation around the world, Israel has resisted all calls for stopping the deadly attacks, finding support for its stance from powerful Western allies led by the U.S.

There are, however, also voices within Israel critical of the actions taken by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

Daniel Levy, a former senior adviser during ex-Premier Ehud Barak's government, says it is "important to call out lies … (that) are justifying the mass killing of people."

"Very clearly the death toll among civilians is undeniable," Levy said in a video call with Anadolu.

"Even if one pretends that there is not a history of Israeli criminality in the way it so-called acts in self-defense, even if we don't remember the crimes perpetrated against civilians during the Nakba, even if we don't remember the crimes perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza in the previous rounds of fighting, even if we do think history began on Oct. 7 and we just look within the narrow framework of this conflict, we have now the proof that Israeli strikes are overwhelmingly killing, displacing, injuring civilians."

For Levy, the objectives set out by the Netanyahu government are themselves not "realistic" or "achievable."

The Israeli leadership has defined this as a campaign to destroy Hamas, both in terms of military and governance, he said.

"They have defined this in very dramatic terms, as a fight for Israel's existence, as a second war of independence … But the goals that have been defined are simply not achievable militarily," said Levy, who now heads the U.S./Middle East Project policy institute.

"We have been here before, not only in Palestine, but around the world. You can't crush a people fighting for their rights militarily. There will only be a political way out of this. So, Israel has not defined for itself realistic goals."

Another point he made was that Netanyahu's positioning gives a sense of extreme fragility in Israel.

"Has the permanent occupation so corroded the Israeli system? Is Israel really so fragile? Is there so much decomposition that really an organization trapped in this tiny part of territory, blockaded for a decade and a half, they pose a threat to your existence?" he said.

"So, actually, it's a very strange thing for an Israeli leader to say, even if a lot of this is psychological propaganda politics, which is not unique to Israel."


The U.S. has been Israel's staunchest supporter in the current situation, using its diplomatic, financial and military power to back its closest regional ally.

According to Levy, the U.S. has "guaranteed that Israel has impunity" and "is not held accountable for its treatment of Palestinians."

"We only got to this place because also of the American role. The parties themselves are primarily responsible, but America played an incredibly unhelpful role," he said.

"I think America has made a very serious miscalculation in this conflict."

He said a large part of world is seeing a "hypocritical, lying, warmongering America, and it's a terrible place for America to be."

"The rest of the world looks at America and they say, 'Wait a minute, weren't you the guys who were telling us just last week, just last month, in fact for the last 20 months, that we need to respect the rules-based order?'" said Levy, referring to Washington's repeated stance on the Russia-Ukraine war.

The U.S. position has everything to do with geopolitics, domestic politics, and how the "very outdated" President Joe Biden sees things, he added.

"But interestingly enough, this could be costly for Biden in his domestic politics … Biden may pay a price because the American public and the Democrat voting public are apparently not happy," he said.

Levy also pointed out how there has been a "massive ramping up of the defense armaments industry in America."

"We're kind of seeing an economic policy of military Keynesianism, where some of the industrial base of America is being rebuilt with Ukraine, and now with this (conflict) as well, by massive subsidies, investment, state spending on the military industrial complex," he said.


To analyze the current situation, Levy emphasized the need to "understand a little bit of history."

"When Palestinians and Israelis went to sleep on Oct. 6, they lived in very different realities. Palestinians for generations have been denied their most basic rights by Israel, by the Israeli occupation, by a regime of structural violence and inequality, which has been credibly defined as a legal regime of apartheid by Palestinian and Israeli and international blue-chip human rights organizations," he said.

"When Israelis went to sleep, they were living in an advanced, high-tech economic military powerhouse-an occupying power versus a stateless, occupied people."

Most of the Palestinians living in Gaza "were displaced in an act mostly of ethnic cleansing, when Israel was established in what is known to Palestinians as the Nakba in 1947 to 1949," he said.

Children born in Gaza since 2006 or 2007 have come of age in an area that Israel has blockaded for years and is described as an open-air prison, he added.

"The reality going into Oct. 7 was an abnormal reality and we have to be able to understand three things simultaneously. The first is this context of the reality of Palestine and Israel. The second is that an occupied people have the right to resist, but they do not have the right to operate outside of international law," said Levy.

"What was done against Israel was a crime, was in contravention of international law … Any power in responding, in asserting the right to self-defense, can also not violate international law and international humanitarian law. And what Israel is doing is a crime. Disproportionality, collective punishment, indiscriminate bombing, cutting food, fuel, water, electricity and humanitarian supplies are a crime."


In Levy's view, the longer the current situation festers, the "more likelihood there is for this to expand and the more unpredictable things get."

"America has positioned itself now militarily where it could get drawn into this, even if it doesn't want to. And I think the fact that America has put its military there may encourage Israeli risk-taking rather than do the opposite," he said.

"Then, I think, we are in an even more dangerous place. I think it is also having an impact on some of the thinking, at least of those countries which decided that whatever Israel does to the Palestinians, they will normalize relations with Israel."

Israel is "already having to divert some of its military to the northern front" with Lebanon, which is "contributing to taking Israeli forces away from the front with Gaza," said Levy.

On the long-term impact, he stressed that anyone who thinks that they "can just manage this conflict and ignore the political root causes has been proven … definitively to be wrong."

While this has made Israel more hardline in the short term, it could push Israelis to "be open to different thinking."

That "has not been the case for a long time, and there has been no leadership to offer different thinking," he said.

"This isn't just about Netanyahu, (Yair) Lapid, (Benny) Gantz, (Naftali) Bennett. We're just as closed in their thinking," said Levy.

"And I hope that also this sends the signal to the Palestinians that their politics need to be renewed, because one of the things we have seen is that the person recognized as the Palestinian leader has been totally incapable of showing leadership, Mahmoud Abbas."