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Nidal Mohammad Watad

Netanyahu uses Iran to distract attention away from Occupation

Netanyahu's wants to marginlise the overarching cause: the Israeli occupation of Palestine. [AFP]

Date of publication: 3 March, 2015

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By scaremongering about Iran's nuclear programme the Israeli prime minister is hoping that the occupation of Palestine and the struggle between the occupied and the occupier will lose its centrality.
Since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed the Hebron Agreement during his first premiership in 1997, he has been actively searching for a distraction to take the focus away from the Arab-Israeli conflict, and turn it into a border conflict. According to the thsi Agreement Israeli forces would withdraw from 80 percent of the West Bank city of Hebron and hand over authority to Palestinian control.

Netanyahu has also sought ways to manage the conflict rather than resolve it, continuing with Ariel Sharon's policies. Israeli prime minister from 2001 until 2006.

In this context, Netanyahu has been running his "Iranian parade" since his foreign policy speech at Bar Ilan University in 2009, in which he agreed to the two state solution – under US pressure – and said he considered Iran a tremendous challenge for Israel. The Palestinian's weak performance in challenging Netanyahu's policies has helped transform the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority into a "secondary" one focused on settlement building, demarcating borders and specifying the extent of territorial exchanges.

Therefore, Netanyahu's expected speech to the US Congress on Tuesday 3 March is seen to be part of the process sideling the Palestinian cause as the main issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is especially important as the speech has been preceded over the past month with discussions in Israeli, Arab and international media about the extent of disagreements between Obama's administration and Netanyahu's government over the Iranian issue.

Netanyahu has also tried to affirm the importance of his speech and said as he boarded a plane to Washington that he feels "like the emissary for all Israelis" and is "deeply and genuinely concerned for the security of all Israelis, for the fate of the nation, and for the fate of our people".
     Netanyahu has used the Iranian issue as a weapon to overshadow the Palestinian cause.

Netanyahu has used the Iranian issue as a weapon to overshadow the Palestinian cause, especially under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency from 2005 to 2013. Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and threatened to wipe Israel off the map. The Israeli prime minister has also worked to cement the belief that "the Iranian threat is the biggest existential threat not only to Israel but also to the western world".  The faltering Arab Spring and increased conflicts destabilising the Arab world has helped Netanyahu entrench this notion and affirm the occupation's narrative that the Palestinian cause is no longer a priority for Arabs, or the main cause of instability.

The Israeli premier has shrewdly employed Arab fears of Iran and its ambitions in the Gulf in an attempt to build "an alliance of intersecting interests with moderate Sunni states", which is purely an Israeli expression that has even been accepted by Arab media. This "alliance" is not only based on confronting Iran, but it also extends to confronting Israel's main opponents since the start of the Arab Spring: "The Shia Iranian axis" and "the extremist Sunni axis." Including the latter axis in Israel's confrontation with its foes has allowed Israel to completely side line the Palestinian cause by portraying its fight against the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, and what is left of the resistance in the West Bank, as a fight against Islamist extremist led by the Muslim Brotherhood and supported by Qatar and Turkey.

Israel's propaganda succeeded in softening the response against it during its latest aggression in Gaza in summer 2014, and excused the failure of the September negotiations that started in 2013 after the Palestinians was forced to halt all international diplomatic efforts. Furthermore, aided by the Islamic State group’s (IS) rapid rise in Iraq and Syria, Israel now has an alternate enemy to take its place in the region.

Netanyahu's speech in Washington aims to achieve two main goals; first, to boost his party's chances of gaining a majority in the upcoming Knesset elections by appealing to the far-right camp in Israel to vote for the "tough on security" Likud party. The second goal is to continue cementing Netanyahu's strategy of blocking any Palestinian initiative that would result in the international community forcing Israel to prioritise the Palestinian cause.

This week the world will be occupied by Netanyahu's speech and the nature of the expected deal between Iran and the West. Many might also delve into the indications and meanings of Netanyahu's re-employment of the Holocaust to reignite "European guilt". This will be further evidence of Netanyahu's success in marginalising the Palestinian cause, because Netanyahu knows better than anyone else that the West, especially the US, will not allow a nuclear Iran, or any other menace to threaten Israel's security.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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