ANDREW NEIL: Time’s up, Netanyahu! He failed to stop October 7 slaughter. He STILL can’t beat Hamas. And now Gaza innocents and aid workers’ blood is on his hands. Any friend of Israel MUST force him out

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Written By Maya Cantina

This week was a watershed in international support for Israel in its brutal war against Hamas.

It had been draining away for some time, as the barbaric atrocities of Hamas’ invasion last October were replaced in the public mind by the much larger and steadily rising death toll of civilians in Gaza as a result of Israeli military retaliation.

But Monday’s killing by an Israeli drone strike of seven aid workers delivering desperately needed food to Palestinians has hardened opinion against Israel.

Israel’s friends are in despair.

What was becoming increasingly hard to defend, has now become all but impossible to justify.

Israel’s many enemies took smug satisfaction from watching its global reputation go down in tatters. The Jewish state might be unbeatable on the battlefield. But in the propaganda war for public opinion, it is now staring defeat in the face.

Even before Monday’s strike, recent polls had shown over half of Americans had come to disapprove of Israel’s military action in Gaza.

But Monday’s killing by an Israeli drone strike of seven aid workers delivering desperately needed food to Palestinians has hardened opinion against Israel. Israel’s friends are in despair. (Pictured: Prime Minister Netanyahu).

Democratic voters were becoming increasingly sympathetic, even supportive, towards Palestinians.

The Biden administration, from the President down, had started to make known publicly its frustration with the government of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s hardline and unpopular Prime Minister.

Even Donald Trump told journalists last week that Israel was losing public support for the assault on Gaza, that the images of devastation coming out of there were bad for Israel’s global image and that Netanyahu should end his war soon. The Israeli government, especially Netanyahu, who had always been sure of Trump’s steadfast support, was shocked.

All this was bad enough. But, since Monday, Israel’s global standing has plummeted further.

Six of the seven aid workers killed by Israeli missiles in their three-vehicle convoy were from staunch allies of Israel, like America, Britain and Australia.

The charity they were working for, World Central Kitchen (WCK), was started by a well-known chef, José Andrés, with restaurants in Washington and ties to the Biden administration, including the President. In terms of perception, it couldn’t be worse for the Israelis.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) claims it was a ‘misidentification’ — that the strike was not intentional.

But the idea it was a freak accident involving rogue missiles will be hard to sell, even to Israel’s friends.

The IDF has acknowledged it works closely with WCK. The convoy was well marked with WCK’s frying-pan logo. Its route along the Gaza coastal road had been cleared with the IDF. The British ex-forces men providing the security had established a GPS signal for the convoy to feed to the IDF.

The attack was no rushed, terrible but understandable, mistake in the fog of war. The IDF drone took out one car with a missile, then waited, took out another, waited again, then destroyed the third car, into which the aid workers had piled, killing all seven in the process.

The anger among Israel’s allies has since simmered to boiling point.

The Israeli ambassador to Britain was summoned to the Foreign Office in London for a rare dressing down.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called Netanyahu immediately to say he was ‘appalled’ by the attack. There is growing British support for an arms embargo of Israel. Across Europe, opinion is palpably turning sour.

Six of the seven aid workers killed by Israeli missiles in their three-vehicle convoy were from staunch allies of Israel, like America, Britain and Australia.

Six of the seven aid workers killed by Israeli missiles in their three-vehicle convoy were from staunch allies of Israel, like America, Britain and Australia.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) claims it was a 'misidentification' - that the strike was not intentional. But the idea it was a freak accident involving rogue missiles will be hard to sell, even to Israel's friends.

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) claims it was a ‘misidentification’ – that the strike was not intentional. But the idea it was a freak accident involving rogue missiles will be hard to sell, even to Israel’s friends.

American-Canadian citizen 33-year-old Jacob Flickinger (pictured with his family) was among those killed in the strike.

American-Canadian citizen 33-year-old Jacob Flickinger (pictured with his family) was among those killed in the strike.

The same is true in America. Biden realizes that, which is why he’s let it be known he is ‘outraged and heartbroken’ by Monday’s tragedy.

Today, he finally managed to call Netanyahu himself. We’re told the President spoke robustly. Monday’s strike was ‘unacceptable’, as was the general humanitarian situation. Israel must announce some (unspecified) measures to improve matters.

Henceforth, US policy ‘with respect to Gaza will be determined by [America’s] assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps’. An immediate ceasefire was ‘essential’.

And that was pretty much it. Whether Israel will face any actual consequences from America, the only ally it really cares about, is unlikely. The Biden administration has a long track record of talking tough and doing nothing — ‘rinse and repeat’ as one administration official put it privately this week.

There is nothing anti-Israeli — much less anti-Semitic — in taking a tougher line with the Netanyahu government. The Israeli people feel the same way. Only 32 percent of Israelis approve of Netanyahu’s conduct since October 7. In many eyes, the killing and destruction which followed in the aftermath of that fateful day outweighs the original atrocity.

Six months later, Hamas is bloodied but unbowed. The war drags on, embedding misery into all aspects of Gaza’s life, while 134 hostages are still in horrendous captivity.

Yes, the claim that over 30,000 Palestinians have lost their lives during the Israeli retaliation is a Hamas propaganda figure, too easily repeated unquestioningly by liberal Western media, and includes thousands of Hamas combatant deaths.

But you don’t have to swallow Hamas lies to accept that thousands of civilians in Gaza have lost their lives in appalling circumstances, many of them women and children. Or to wonder if the IDF is quite as scrupulous or keen to avoid civilian casualties as it often claims.

Of course, Hamas is beyond the pale. But it is an evil, depraved death cult. Israel is a civilized, progressive democracy. Hamas cannot be the benchmark by which Israel judges itself. It is better than that. Much better. Or should be.

The worst could still be yet to come, however. If Israel mounts its long-anticipated incursion into Rafah in southern Gaza – where what remains of the Hamas leadership seems to have gathered along with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who’ve fled conflict in the north – there is likely to be a humanitarian catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.

Israel’s reputation, already in the dirt in so many eyes, might never recover. It is one reason why internal dissension in Israel is again on the rise.

Mass demonstrations against Netanyahu and his government, prevalent last summer but abandoned after October 7, are being mounted once more.

Today, Biden finally managed to call Netanyahu. Whether Israel will face any actual consequences from America, the only ally it really cares about, is unlikely. The Biden administration has a long track record of talking tough and doing nothing.

Today, Biden finally managed to call Netanyahu. Whether Israel will face any actual consequences from America, the only ally it really cares about, is unlikely. The Biden administration has a long track record of talking tough and doing nothing.

The families of the hostages are joining in. Netanyahu is kept in power by a few politicians on the extreme right of Israeli politics. If only five defected, his government would topple, forcing an election, which is what a majority of Israelis now want this autumn (one does not have to be held until 2026).

If Israelis themselves are critical of their government in these difficult times, there is no reason why Israel’s friends and allies should not be too. Unconditional support is the last thing it needs in the current circumstances.

Under Netanyahu’s watch, the country was clearly ill-prepared to deal with the Hamas incursion. He has presided over a retaliation which after six months has not yet done the job but which increasingly alienates Israel’s allies.

He is planning another assault which is likely to result in yet further massive loss of life — but still not necessarily erase Hamas. And he stands in the way of a wider regional accommodation which Arab allies are still ready to help secure.

Israel deserves support in its current predicament. It has been mightily wronged and has every right to be robust in dealing with implacable enemies whose only aim is to destroy it. You can’t negotiate with people like that.

But support for Israel does not necessarily mean support for its current government. In that, the Israeli people and their global allies should be agreed.

Monday’s atrocity might yet galvanize opinion inside and outside the country in that direction.

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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