Netanyahu Is Unfit to Be Prime Minister After the Greatest Fiasco of His Premiership

Maybe Netanyahu is corrupt, maybe even criminal, but - as his supporters would explain their support for him - the main thing is his strength

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference, April 2, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “zigzag” is the talk of the town. True, it was mortifying, bizarre, and weird – but the reversal itself is of secondary importance. The thing of primary importance, because his whole political essence is built on the image of strength and power, was the prime minister’s display of anxiety and fear, and how he turned tail.

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Maybe Netanyahu is corrupt, maybe even criminal, but - as his supporters would explain their support for him - the main thing is his strength (despite the revelations about his personal conduct under police investigation). Yet suddenly, the most flagrant failure under Netanyahu’s watch since he returned to power in 2009 produced this feeble, practically panicky being.

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Speaking on the news show Erev Hadash (“new evening”), on Tuesday, former Likud minister Dan Meridor asked if anybody could imagine Prime Minister Menachem Begin reversing himself on the peace treaty with Egypt just because the Likud Knesset faction had split and, in a theoretical referendum, a majority of party members would have rejected any commitment not to annex the West Bank. But Begin didn’t consult polls and didn’t count on his fractured party. He believed in peace, and the treaty passed in the Knesset with the support of the opposition.

The rest of it is true, but it’s of lesser importance – how he had the gall to sign an agreement without bringing it before the cabinet first; why he mixed up Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked in the story, as though she had been handling Israel’s talks with the United Nations; and why he tried to compel German chancellor Angela Merkel to help him, without asking her first.

Ultimately, the infiltrators – which they are, even if they are seeking asylum – were basically stopped when Netanyahu built an effective fence along the border with Egypt. Since then, there has been no problem of infiltration to Israel. Rather what there is, is demagoguery intended to deflect the debate to piffling matters and incite against people defending the Africans.

The solution announced Monday (only to be suspended) could have been in place a long time ago, sparing us the speeches of Miri Regev and her ilk. South Tel Aviv could have been gratified without whipping up racialist tensions that will leave scars. After allowing the argument to descend to places it never should have gone, Netanyahu (with Arye Dery) reached a commendable arrangement, that would have won him plaudits within Israel and around the world – only to be exposed as a man who takes fright.

And maybe he really is like that. Maybe the anxiety gene lurking within him came to the fore because of the investigations into his affairs. The one thing that’s clear is that this, the greatest fiasco of his premiership, attests that he is not fit to hold that lofty office. Because, who knows how many imprudent decisions he made in haste that nobody even knows about?