Vision of ‘Total Victory’ – How Rafah Became Netanyahu’s Last Fig Leaf

Scenes from a displacement camp in Rafah, southern Gaza. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour, The Palestine Chronicle)

By Jamal Kanj

The US Administration as well as Israeli military leaders believe that Netanyahu’s assertion of “total victory”  by invading Rafah is a hogwash.

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.

Arguably, Rafah stands today as one of the most densely populated 25-square-mile regions on Earth. Its population hovers around 1.4 million, encompassing the original 275,000 inhabitants prior to Israel’s forced displacement of over 50 percent of the northern Gaza population. To put this into perspective, Rafah’s current population is comparable to that of the city of San Diego, albeit, jammed in an area less than 7 percent of San Diego’s expanse.

Early during Israel 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.”

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 center to justify a military raid on Gaza 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 realized 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 March 24, 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, March 26, 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 October 7 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 backpedaling asserting that the UNSC resolution held no significance, deeming it “non-binding” with “no change to what Israel can or can’t do.”

Despite this, the ingrate Israeli leader scolded the White House by canceling 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 defense 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 USopposition by announcing plans to construct hundreds of new homes in the “Jewish-only” colony of Ramat Shlomo in East Jerusalem.

More recently, US 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 traveled from Saudi Arabia as part of US diplomatic efforts to normalize relations between the Kingdom and the Zionist entity, Netanyahu sidelined American pains to reward Israeli genocide with the Saudi normalization 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.”

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.

– Jamal Kanj is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America, and other books. He writes frequently on Arab world issues for various national and international commentaries. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle

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