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Political economist Shir Hever says an invasion of Gaza on the scale of Operation Pillar of Cloud is likely but that international pressure and threats to Israeli trade will prevent the state from taking the most extreme forms of military action

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ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.

The Israeli Defense Forces is calling up fifteen hundred of its reservists as it prepares for an expansion of military operations against the Gaza strip. The news comes as three Israelis have confessed to the kidnapping and murder of sixteen year-old Palestinian Mohammad Abu Khdeir, whose cousin Tariq Abu Khdeir, was also recently beaten by Israeli police in East Jerusalem.

Joining us now to discuss the latest news is Shir Hever. Shir is an economist studying the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories for the Alternative Information Center. Thanks for joining us, Shir.


WORONCZUK: So, Shir, let’s get your response to the latest news that the IDF is preparing to send–or preparing to call on about fifteen hundred reservists to assist in the expansion of military operations in Gaza. Do you think that we’re gonna see an operation on the scale of the Pillar of Cloud that we saw in November 2012?

HEVER: I think there is a very good chance of that because, first of all, we’ve realized there’s a pattern now that every about two years, Israel is attacking Gaza, bombarding Gaza, and this is for economic reasons as well as for political reasons. And now there are very strong political reasons because the Israeli government is in a sort of difficult position. There are very loud voices calling for more violence, for revenge against Palestinians, for escalating the level of brutality.

And as the leading parties now in Israel is now on the verge–in the process of splitting up, specifically about the issue of Gaza. And Netanyahu is in the position where he wants to call on this attack so he can gain some popularity and appear as a strong man. And more importantly Netanyahu has been trying to use the violent advance of the last three weeks in order to get as much traction against Hamas. He’s tried–he’s very much concerned about the unity government between Fatah and Hamas and the reconciliation between these two parties. And he’s trying to rally international opinion and Israeli opinion against Hamas.

WORONCZUK: Okay, and what’s been the reaction in Israel since three suspects have confessed to the kidnapping and murder of a sixteen-year-old Palestinian boy as well as news that his 15 year-old cousin, Tariq, was beaten by police?

HEVER: This is a story that defies imagination in its brutality. Mohammad Abu Khdeir has been kidnapped, he was forced to drink gasoline, and then he was doused with additional gasoline and was burned alive by his murderers, according to the autopsy results at the Ramallah Medicine Center, which were later confirmed by an Israeli autopsy.

So this shows a certain level of brutality that many Israelis maybe would have liked to believe is not something you can see happening in Israel, but Israelis are human beings just like anybody else, and that kind of violence unfortunately is not unheard of. Now the response inside Israel has been mixed, and I’m afraid that the voices condemning this murder and seeing it as a hate crime that has to be severely punished are not voices that are heard so loudly and are not so much in the media.

What we hear is, first of all, various attempts to deny that this has actually happened. In fact, the Israeli police leaked various comments, or rumors, to the press trying to claim that Mohammad Abu Khdeir was gay and, therefore, maybe he was murdered by his own family. Later, they actually interrogated the family. And the media in Israel tried to confuse this case with another, a case of an attempted kidnapping and tried to say maybe this family has some kind of internal feud so as to divert the blame away from the obvious suspects, which are right-wing, Jewish Israelis.

And it shouldn’t really come as a surprise unfortunately because a few days before that, Prime Minister Netanyahu actually called for revenge. He said, in referring to the kidnapping and murder of the three Israelis previously, that–he spoke about the need for revenge. He quoted a famous Jewish poet that actually coined a term in relation to the murder of Jews by anti-Semites in Europe and said that the devil has not created a revenge strong enough for–to avenge a child. And Netanyahu quoted that, sending a message to Israelis: why don’t you take the law into your own hands and start taking revenge?

After the details of this murder of Mohammad Abu Khdeir had been published in Israel, several alternative news agencies have tried to interview people, for example, the neighbors of the suspects in the murder or just people on the street. And they found quite a lot of people who sympathized with murder, who support it. This is a level of hatred that the Israeli society has reached, which may be unprecedented.

WORONCZUK: Okay, and what is the significance of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s announcement that he’s dismantling the Likud Beiteinu faction and will no longer be working as closely with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

HEVER: Well, this is another event that’s not really a surprise because the alliance between Likud Yisrael Beiteinu has been a strategic one that was predicted to be short-lived. The two parties merged just before the election so that they can possibly win more seats. Lieberman could enjoy the fact, or benefit from the fact, that the Likud party is a very strong electoral based. The Likud party, especially Netanyahu, wanted Lieberman on the party in order to appear more right-wing and more extreme so that he would become more popular.

But I think it was very clear from the beginning, Lieberman is going to withdraw, and the question was the timing. And the timing–Lieberman is judging that timing to be now because at the moment where spirits are very angry in Israel and there is cause for death of Arabs, death of Palestinians on the street, on the soccer fields. Lieberman is now–believes that this is his moment to criticize the government from the right rather than be inside the government. He knows that Netanyahu cannot take this violence, or at least the state violence, to extremes because of international pressure, because this would look very bad for the Israeli government and could harm Israeli trade. So Netanyahu is bound to put a limit.

And I think that it also explains why Israel is now calling on fifteen hundred reservists and vowing to attack Gaza because Netanyahu wants to marginalize Lieberman and show that he is right-wing enough. He doesn’t need someone to attack him from the right. Lieberman, however, is calling for the ground invasion of Gaza, which means not fifteen hundred but maybe sixty thousand troops on the ground to re-occupy Gaza–well Gaza is occupied, I should say re-occupy–but to take direct control over Gaza because Lieberman says this would be the only way to deprive Hamas of their ability to shoot rockets into Israel.

WORONCZUK: Okay, Shir Hever, thank you so much for joining us.

HEVER: Thank you, Anton.

WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Dr. Shir Hever grew up in Israel and now lives in Germany. He has been reporting on Israel/Palestine stories for 16 years, and for the Real News specifically since 2016. He’s the author of two books and many articles, and is a committed member of several Palestine solidarity groups.