19.12.2023 Author: Aleksei Bolshakov

Netanyahu: an (un)clear future in the sands of Gaza


For more than a decade, demands for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been voiced in Israel. There are many reasons for this: growing social inequality, the housing crisis, accusations of cheap populism, numerous corruption scandals, which put him under an ongoing investigation, attempts to reorganize the judicial system, which led to mass protests. And after the militants of the Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad launched a powerful missile attack and and attacked Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories on October 7, 2023, on the Simchat Torah holiday, Netanyahu’s position began to look especially precarious. Associate Professor of the Institute of Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Service, expert orientalist Sergey Vladimirovich Demidenko, in a comment for the NEO, noted that the political system of Israel is now extremely mobile.

“The traditional centers of power that would characterize the Israeli political field have shifted. Previously, the entire political situation was perceived in the dichotomy of the struggle of conditional “leftists” represented by the Avoda party and conservatives represented by Likud. However, for 15–16 years now, a fairly large centrist camp has appeared with an extensive political agenda that does not end only with the settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict: they have serious claims against religious ultraconservatives — they want to force them to serve in the army, pay taxes and so on. The centrist camp is mainly represented by the parties “Yesh Atid”, “Kahol Lavan” by Benny Gantz and so on,” the expert noted.

No one can point a finger at me! 

That evening, Netanyahu, along with Defense Minister Yoav Galant and opposition leader Beni Gantz, who joined the emergency military cabinet, took part in the first press conference after the Hamas attack, during which he looked unfocused, stumbled over the words of prayer, and then left early after a series of provocative questions from journalists.

After that, in the middle of the night, Netanyahu posted on his X (formerly Twitter) a message in which he blamed the failures in security and intelligence systems on October 7 on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

“Contrary to the false claims, under no circumstances and at no stage was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned of Hamas’s war intentions. On the contrary, all the security officials, including the head of military intelligence and the head of the Shin Bet, assessed that Hamas had been deterred and was looking for a settlement. This assessment was submitted again and again to the prime minister and the cabinet by all the security forces and intelligence community, up to the outbreak of the war,” the message by Netanyahu said.

Such a narrative can be called an attempt to throw their generals under the wave of popular anger. The next day, he — or someone from his office — deleted the tweet and apologized for the post, but not for the content itself. It didn’t seem to anyone that this message was the only thing Netanyahu apologized for recently after Israel woke up from its most serious crisis in the last 50 years. Such a performance probably only accelerated Netanyahu’s steep dive.

The media and the masses

It is also worth paying attention to the “flattering” way the Israeli press speaks about the Prime Minister himself. Two days after the Hamas attack, a publication appeared in the Haaretz newspaper, “The two lowest points on the planet are in Israel: the Dead Sea and Benjamin Netanyahu’s demeanor. One is a natural wonder, the other a political blunder.” In that material, members of his Likud party gave anonymous interviews in which they suggested that Netanyahu may have come to the end of his political path.

According to a survey by the Dialogue Center, four out of five Israelis believe that the government and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are to blame for the massive infiltration of Hamas terrorists into Israel and the bloodshed that followed.

Such discontent inevitably resulted in street protests. On November 19, crowds of demonstrators in Tel Aviv demanded the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Time is running out — the people demand the release of the hostages,” “You are to blame, how much more blood should be shed?”, read the inscriptions on the posters. However, even if there is no rallying of the population around Netanyahu, there is general support on issues of national security and the need for an immediate military response. A poll conducted by the Israeli newspaper Maariv shows that 65% of Israelis support a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip.

Despite the fact that Netanyahu is unlikely to resign voluntarily (he has already denied reports about this), and the general elections are still three years away, there is a possibility that he may be given a vote of no confidence, paving the way for the creation of a more centrist coalition led by the aforementioned Benny Gantz, who enjoys almost unprecedented support of voters.

“The situation of a possible vote of no confidence has always existed in Israel, and Netanyahu has been in this position many times. The current political narrative on the Palestinian-Israeli track shows that there is indeed a risk of impeachment of Netanyahu. Israel now needs a leader who can stabilize the situation in the region. Netanyahu is a long-serving Israeli politician. There have been no Prime Ministers before who left and returned so many times. Everything rests on his ability to negotiate and build coalitions. I am sure that Netanyahu is already working out options for retreating in order to return later. It’s his style,” Mr. Demidenko stressed.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict completely refutes the whole point of Netanyahu’s existence as a political figure. Throughout his career, his message has been a through-line that negotiations with terrorists are “counterproductive,” “unrealistic,” “utopian” and harm Israel more than they help it. He was an indispensable defender of the country. However, now his authority as a defender of the homeland has been undermined.

Still, as Mr. Demidenko noted, it is impossible to consider Benjamin Netanyahu’s career in the context of a single political case. “He will come to an agreement with Benny Gantz or Avigdor Lieberman and try to return again, but only in a different political situation,” he added.


Aleksei Bolshakov, international-affairs journalist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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