ISRAELI GOVERNMENT - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “Bibi” has cast a cancerous spell over the Israeli electorate since 1996. He has willfully and sinfully done all he can to destroy the Oslo process while maintaining a false aura of centrist reasonableness. Much of the conservative leaning Israeli electorate has historically bought into his self-proclaimed “Mr. Security” branding. The events of October pierced that illusion and subsequent opinion surveys are finding 90% desire him out of office - if not now, then soon after the Hamas War concludes.
Netanyahu for his part is declaring his intent to remain in power for a lengthy tenure, with full disregard for what Israeli prevailing opinion is. He understands that exiting power leaves him vulnerable to his ongoing court battles; with their probable adjudication of him serving future jail time.
The 1200 Israelis murdered by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023 marked the deadliest day in Jewish history since the Holocaust. Policies pushed by Netanyahu and his successive coalition partners are widely viewed as responsible for Israel not being fortified and aware enough to notice and then stop the growing Hamas threat. Netanyahu believed that a maintenance policy, called “mowing the grass”, where every 18 to 24 months would reliably see a military operation that weakened but not eliminating Hamas, was a worthy strategy to blunt any potential peace process progress, thus keeping alive the perceived need to have “Mr. Security” remain at the helm.
Essentially, Netanyahu’s policy tolerated Hamas remaining in power, and even okayed Qatar’s funneling of billions of dollars to Hamas. He believed this approach was sufficient to deter Hamas and thus protect Israel. He also enjoyed that Hamas’ continued presence set it as a rival that diminished the more reasonable Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, with whom Netanyahu did not want to deal, since their approach is far more palatable to the goal of delivering a two-state solution as a resolution to the regional conflict.
This conventional wisdom came crashing down on October 7, and Netanyahu has no pathway back toward once again being in the good graces of the Israeli electorate. History will record him as overseeing the country’s biggest ever security fiasco. The prevailing thinking asks what the whole point is of having an Israel if it can’t keep the Jewish people safe from pogroms (the sequence of organized massacres of Jewish communities in Russia and eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).
The discussion in Israel now is how to get rid of him. Netanyahu has been in power in part because he branded himself a security leader. This helped inoculate him despite his always being a controversial and polarizing figure; one who did immense damage to the type of bipartisan support Israel had traditionally always received in the United States before he came to office.
The fact that he did not bring security - highlighted by this catastrophic occurrence happening under his watch is now making his former supporters seek others who might be more credible for the job of rebuilding Israel’s deterrence and finding a new political path forward in the region. Discussion is focusing not just on other political figures, but also on prospects outside of the political corridors, which is similar to what happened after the surprise October 1973 Yom Kippur War, when the centrist DASH party was formed from mostly business executives and rose to become the third largest party in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) in the mid-1970s.
There are pros and cons to creating a party composed of people who aren’t politicians: They bring a new and refreshing spirit, while challenging the existing old-school ministries and Knesset committees. But the downside is fresh politicians need a few years to learn the mechanics of governing, especially in the complex Israeli political system of party coalitions. This learning curve may lead to missing out on opportunities (Abraham Accords expansion?) or fueling unnecessarily dramatic parliamentary vote challenges.
The Israeli right remains a very popular movement, but it has struggled for the last three decades to coalesce around any leader who is not named Benjamin Netanyahu. It now realizes that the post-Bibi era is about to begin. Part of the problem is that he has hallowed out the coalition he leads of any potential threats to his role as leader. He has gotten rid of a lot of people who would be potential rivals to his leadership (former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett being an example of a former close ally who was pushed into becoming a political rival). He has left behind a lot of idealogues and a lot of very inexperienced people who are quite incompetent - a stew that has made him irreplaceable in his Likud party - until now.
(Mihran Kalaydjian is a consummate leading member of the community and a devoted civic engagement activist for education spearheading numerous academic initiatives in local political forums.)
(David Alpern is an active leader in Southern California for more than 20 years on behalf of increasing education budgets, investment in the arts, carbon taxes, and the two-state solution to the Arab Israeli conflict.)