The Knesset granted late on Monday, April 30, far-right Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greater authority to take Israel to war, at a time when tensions between Israel and Iran are reaching new heights. Netanyahu can now, “in “extreme situations,” launch a war with only the approval of the defense minister, currently hardliner Avigdor Lieberman. Previously the prime minister would need the approval of the entire Israeli cabinet in order to declare war.
The news of the Israeli parliament’s decision emerged following a 20-minute hyped presentation in which Netanyahu accused Iran of continuing to pursue its nuclear weapons program in contravention of the 2015 nuclear deal. To substantiate the seriousness of the Iranian threat to Israel, Netanyahu performed a disingenuous abracadabra stunt, in which he swept a black sheet off display of empty folders and CDs, contending that they represent the information collected by Israel’s intelligence regarding Iran’s breaching of its deal with the other signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action concluded three years ago. The other parties to this deal limiting Iran’s nuclear development program are the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. US President Donald Trump has vowed that his country will withdraw from the deal in another week, May 12, by simply not renewing it, calling it in his characteristic infantile hyperbole “the worst deal ever made.” It is surmised that Netanyahu’s party trick performance this week was prepared to provide substance to Trump’s contentions.
During the parliamentarian debate, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash) drew attention to the debate coinciding with escalating tensions between Israel and Syria. “I don’t know whether this is cynical or sad that we are discussing this bill on this, of all days,” she said. “The proposed bill will enable only two people [Netanyahu and Lieberman] to take not only the State of Israel to war, but all the countries of the region.”
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) also criticized the upgrading of the prime minister’s war powers, warning against leaving “the intoxication of power in the hands of a few far-right individuals with no proper checks.”
Since 2008 Israel has waged three murderous asymmetric wars against the Gaza Strip, including the 2014 offensive, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead. Israel also launched two wars on Lebanon in 1982 (followed by an 18 year occupation of the southern part of its neighbor to the north) and in 2006, and observers note that the Zionist state is preparing for a third such round while increasing threats against Syria, Lebanon, Iran and the Gaza Strip.