Israel’s Netanyahu faces global isolation


 Israel’s hawkish right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is treading increasingly thin ice after the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor on Monday sought an arrest warrant for him over “war crimes” in Gaza.

The silver-haired 73-year-old, known by his nickname “Bibi”, has dominated his country’s politics for decades but now faces mounting isolation both at home and abroad over his handling of the war against Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu has faced staunch criticism for the security failures that led to Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,139 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

He has remained steadfast in his vow to “eliminate” Hamas, overseeing Israel’s bloody response to the attack that has ravaged Gaza and killed at least 35,562 people, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The International Criminal Court’s prosecutor Karim Khan said Monday he had applied for an arrest warrant against Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for crimes including “wilful killing”, “extermination and/or murder” and “starvation”.

Netanyhau has stood the course in Gaza, sending troops into the far-southern city of Rafah this month in defiance of pleas from Israel’s main international ally, the United States.

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone,” Netanyahu said.

Wily strategist

Before the war, Netanyahu was revered by loyal Likud party followers for his stated mission to defend the Jewish people against all threats, from militant groups to arch-foe Iran.

But to his opponents, he was the “prime minister” who, while fighting corruption charges in court, was also leading a push to curb the powers of the judiciary in a way they feared would undermine democracy. 

A wily strategist and political survivor, Netanyahu has spent more than 16 years in the prime minister’s office, making him Israel’s longest serving leader. He has also outlived multiple US presidential administrations.

Under his rule, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process of the 1990s has effectively collapsed, while Jewish settlements have been rapidly expanded in the occupied West Bank, eroding hopes for Palestinian statehood.

Close to former US president Donald Trump, Netanyahu clinched a diplomatic triumph by normalizing relations with a number of Arab states under the Washington-brokered Abraham Accords.

After establishing ties with the United Arab Emirates and other states, a similar breakthrough with Saudi Arabia would be a “quantum leap for peace”, Netanyahu has told Dubai-based Al Arabiya.

He reflected on his role in his autobiography, writing “as a soldier, I fought to defend Israel on battlefields.

“As a diplomat, I fended off attacks against its legitimacy in world forums, as finance minister and prime minister I sought to multiply its economic and political power.”

Throughout it all, Netanyahu wrote, his aim had been to help “secure the future of my ancient people”.