In casting a popular resistance movement like Hamas as ISIS, Netanyahu has tarred all Palestinians as bloodthirsty Islamic extremists. And here we reach Israel's real goal in equating the two groups.
Netanyahu's comparison has a recent parallel. Immediately after the 9/11 attacks on the US, Ariel Sharon made a similar equivalence between al-Qaeda and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Israel's intelligence officials even called the destruction of the Twin Towers a "Hanukkah miracle," a view echoed by Netanyahu years later when he described the attack as beneficial, adding that it had "swung American public opinion in our favour."
All of them understood that 9/11 had reframed the debate about the Oslo-inspired debate about the Palestinians needing statehood to one about an evil axis of Middle East terror.
Sharon reveled in calling Arafat the head of an "infrastructure of terror," justifying Israel's crushing the uprising of the second intifada.
Similarly, Netanyahu's efforts are designed to discredit all -- not just the Islamic variety of -- Palestinian resistance to Israel's occupation. He hopes to be the silent partner to Barack Obama's new coalition against ISIS.
Aaron David Miller, an adviser to several US administrations on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, warned in Foreign Policy last week that the rise of ISIS would pose a serious setback to Palestinian hopes of statehood -- a point underscored by the far greater concerns about ISIS than the Palestinians' plight expressed by Arab League delegates at this week's meeting in Cairo.
How Netanyahu hopes to follow Sharon in exploiting this opportunity was on show last week, when Israeli intelligence revealed a supposed Hamas plot to launch a coup against the PA.
The interrogation of Hamas officials, however, showed only that they had prepared for the possibility of the PA's rule ending in the West Bank, either through its collapse under Israeli pressure or through a disillusioned Abbas handing over the keys to Israel.
But talk of Hamas coups has melded with other, even wilder stories, such as the claims last week from foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman that ISIS cells had formed in the West Bank and inside Israel. Defense minister Moshe Yaalon underscored this narrative by hurriedly classifying ISIS as a "proscribed" organization.
All this fear-mongering is designed both to further undermine the Palestinian unity government between Hamas and Fatah, and to sanction Israel's behavior by painting a picture, as after 9/11, of an Israel on the front line of a war against global terror.
"Israel's demands for a continued Israeli presence [in the West Bank] and a lengthy withdrawal period will only harden further," wrote Miller.
In reality, Israel should share common cause with Palestinian leaders, from Fatah and Hamas, against ISIS. But, as ever, Netanyahu will forgo his country's long-term interests for a short-term gain in his relentless war to keep the Palestinians stateless.
A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.
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