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Netanyahu failed Israel in peace, and now again in war: he should quit

Eetta Prince-Gibson
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Net replace

Published: 3 November 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

Israel needs new leadership to find the path to a better future.

Benjamin Netanyahu abdicated his responsibilities as prime minister years ago. It’s time he finally quit.

Benjamin Netanyahu has been prime minister of Israel for 13 of the past 14 years. Since 2016, when investigations into his crimes became public, he has abandoned even the pretence that his goal is to serve the country and its citizens. Now on trial for breach of trust, accepting bribes and fraud, his only goal is to remain prime minister long enough to stay out of jail.

In January 2023, Netanyahu created a bloated government composed of incompetent ultra-nationalists, religious fundamentalists, and crass populist ministers, whose only qualification is their willingness to form that coalition. He has repaid them well for their loyalty.

As socio-economic gaps within society threaten social and political cohesion, and even in the face of the desperate need for financial aid in this crisis, his government has allocated over 500 billion to redundant ministries and ministers from ultra-Orthodox or pro-settler parties.

To stay in power, he must placate the most extreme elements of this extremist coalition, who seek to castrate Israeli democracy by decimating the Supreme Court and the entire judicial system. For nearly 40 consecutive weeks (stopping only after the events of October 7), hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in protest.

Polls reveal that less than a third of the public supports this judicial overhaul. He was repeatedly warned by economic, political, academic, and social advisors that this would weaken the economy, damage the high-tech sector, destabilise Israeli society, and hurt Israel’s relationship with Diaspora Jewry and the world, but Netanyahu responded by vilifying the protesters. 

He was warned that allowing the judicial overhaul to continue would also harm Israel’s militarily capabilities, but refused the Chief of Staff’s requests to meet.

His desperate attempts to stay in power have contaminated every decision he makes. Indeed, to impede any peace-process that would anger his right-wing base, he promoted the ill-fated illusion that Hamas could be tempered and allowing Hamas to grow was preferrable to empowering the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The barbarism of October 7 proves just how dangerous that illusion has been.

He apparently doesn’t see the sad irony that the protests groups he condemned are running the logistical operation that the government should be running.

As air, sea, and ground troops fight in Gaza, and as the threat of war on the northern front becomes increasingly likely, the wasteful useless ministers are missing in action. Some 125,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the start of the war. No fewer than five ministers have direct responsibility for providing for their needs and for the needs of the thousands of traumatized families.

But not one of these five ministers has been able to organise his or her ministry to do so. He apparently doesn’t see the sad irony that groups he condemned, such as Brothers and Sisters in Arms and Women Building an Alternative, who honed their organisational skills in the protest movement, have now mobilised and are running the comprehensive logistical operation that the government should be running.

Since October 7, Netanyahu has held only two press conferences for the domestic press and only once took a few questions - almost all of which he refused to answer. He has met with representatives of the families of the hostages only twice. 

He makes bombastic declarations that Israel will defeat Hamas, but offers no strategic vision for the day after. 

He has taken to dressing in black, even wearing his military-style puffer jacket inside, in a transparent, pathetic attempt to look like a serious leader. A bullet-proof vest peeks out from under this costume. But Netanyahu is well-guarded and nowhere near the front, and the vest seems like a symbol of his hope that he can avoid the virtual shrapnel from the rage of the 80% of the population (including 69% from his own party) who have said that he must take responsibility for the security failures exposed by October 7.

Israelis are fighting for their homeland, but Netanyahu is fighting for his political future.  Loyal to his modus operandi of inciting one group against another and deflecting any responsibility, at 1.10am on Sunday morning, as the families of the hostages sank into their nightmares and the soldiers prepared for the dangerous ground war in Gaza, he posted a tweet that laid the blame for the crisis on the IDF.

“Under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned about Hamas’ intention to go to war,” he claimed. (He removed the tweet, but only ten hours later.)

Some individuals are good leaders in war time; some are better in peace time. Netanyahu is not suited for either time. He makes bombastic declarations that Israel will defeat Hamas, but offers no security policy or strategic vision for the day after. He offers no social vision for the future other than inciting social groups against each other.

He abdicated his responsibility a long time ago. Now he should just go, so that we can overcome our trauma, rebuild social solidarity, and search for a way to a better future for everyone in our region.

Netanyahu may not last, Biden and aides increasingly believe
The Israeli prime minister’s political obituary has been written before. But US officials are already gauging potential successors
Protest leaders, ex-security chiefs step up calls for Netanyahu to resign amid war
(Times of Israel)
After a period of political moderation, critics say Netanyahu not fit or capable to lead country during war
Why Netanyahu Must Go By Ami Ayalon, Gilead Sher, and Orni Petruschka (Foreign Affairs)
After the War, Israel Will Need a Two-State Solution He Cannot Deliver

Photo: Benjamin Netanyahu (Dana Koppel)

About the author

Eetta Prince-Gibson

Eetta Prince-Gibson, who lives in Jerusalem, was previously Editor-in-Chief of The Jerusalem Report, is the Israel Editor for Moment Magazine and a regular contributor to Haaretz, The Forward, PRI, and other Israeli and international publications.

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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