Netanyahu understands that keeping Hamas in power comes at a heavy political price. But as long as it thwarts the possibility of a Palestinian state, it’s worth it for him.
By Meron Rapoport
Weak. Giving into to terror. Those were the words Avigdor Liberman used to describe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his press conference on Wednesday announcing his resignation as defense minister. The severe remarks came a day after Netanyahu agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas, following the most violent flare-up on the Gaza border since the 2014 Gaza war.
Liberman’s resignation, first and foremost, stems from political considerations. With elections approaching as early as March 2019, he understands the political value of appearing as someone who did not give in to Hamas. Following the almost-war in Gaza earlier this week, he recognizes that Netanyahu is now being perceived by the Israeli public as a coward, and he wants to exploit the moment to its fullest.
Liberman is not alone in bashing Netanyahu. Hundreds of Israelis demonstrated in the southern city of Sderot on Tuesday, burning tires and chanting “Bibi, go home!” Education Minister Naftali Bennett called the cabinet’s decision to accept an Egyptian-brokered unacceptable. This is nothing new: already since the 2014 Gaza war, Bennett has been trying to portray Netanyahu as a faltering leader who lacks the courage to “do the right thing” — that is, bring down Hamas.
And it wasn’t only right-wing politicians who tried to present Netanyahu as weak. Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay and other centrists took turns attacking the prime minister. Even former Prime Minister Ehud Barak joined the fray, saying “Netanyahu went bankrupt and surrendered to Hamas under fire.”
Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy decided to see Netanyahu’s apprehension in a positive light, calling him a “man of peace.” His article was written a few days before the latest flare up, but one can assume that the cease-fire with Hamas only strengthens his thesis. Levy reminds readers that in 12 years as prime minister, Netanyahu had only gone to war once, in 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, on the other hand, waged two major wars in two years. Netanyahu, Levy writes, is one of the most “anti-war prime ministers we have had.”
But both the criticism of Netanyahu’s cowardice on the one hand and the praise for his moderation on the other miss the point entirely. Netanyahu is an ideologue...Read More