Benjamin Netanyahu “bears responsibility” for the deadliest raid into Israeli territory in 50 years, newspaper Haaretz has said.
The left-leaning publication blamed intelligence failures and the Israeli prime minister’s policy towards Palestinians for the attack by Hamas militants from the Gaza Strip that has so far killed hundreds of Israelis.
Israel has reported 900 soldiers and civilians killed, and Palestinian authorities have reported about 700 deaths in Gaza and the West Bank, the Associated Press said.
As the consequences of the deadliest raid into Israeli territory since Egypt and Syria’s attacks in the 1973 Yom Kippur War continue to unravel, the editorial board of Israel’s third-biggest newspaper said that the conflict “is the clear responsibility of one person: Benjamin Netanyahu.”
The op-ed said that the prime minister had “completely failed to identify the dangers he was consciously leading Israel into” when he established a government of “annexation and dispossession” and by appointing Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir to key positions.
Smotrich, a right-wing politician appointed minister of finance in 2022, has caused controversy by expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank and opposing Palestinian statehood. Ben-Gvir is the security minister, who has faced charges of hate speech against Arabs.
The paper said that Netanyahu’s foreign policy “openly ignored the existence and rights of Palestinians” and expected the Israeli prime minister to “certainly try to evade his responsibility and cast the blame on the heads of the army, Military Intelligence and the Shin Bet security service.
“However, the military and intelligence failure does not absolve Netanyahu of his overall responsibility for the crisis as he is the ultimate arbiter of Israeli foreign and security affairs.”
The piece said that Netanyahu, who has faced repeated criticism from Haaretz during his time in office, had shaped the policy of the government led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, which aimed “to crush the Palestinian national movement in both its wings, in Gaza and the West Bank.”
The newspaper said that after winning in the last election, his “fully-right government” had taken steps to to annex the West Bank and to carry out ethnic cleansing in parts of the Oslo-defined Area C, including the Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley.”
The piece criticized Netanyahu for a “massive expansion” of settlements and increasing the Jewish presence on Temple Mount near the Al Aqsa Mosque, as well as a peace deal with Saudi Arabia “in which the Palestinians get nothing.”
“Signs of an outbreak of hostilities began in the West Bank, where Palestinians started feeling the heavier hand of the Israeli occupier,” Haaretz said. “Hamas exploited the opportunity in order to launch its surprise attack.”
The newspaper said Netanyahu’s indictment in three corruption cases left him unable to look after state affairs and was behind his establishment of a “horrific coalition” and the “the enfeeblement of top army and intelligence officers.”
“The price was paid by the victims of the invasion in the Western Negev,” it said.
Newsweek has contacted Netanyahu’s office by email for comment.
Update, 10/10/23, 4:30 a.m. ET: This article was updated with latest casualty figures and additional background information.