It’s Buji’s Fault, Not Bibi’s

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, April 5, 2019.
Emil Salman

The residents of the south are furious. They simply do not believe that with such a large army they don’t have security, quiet or tranquility. They aren’t prepared to agree to a situation in which Hamas fires 690 rockets in 35 hours, kills four people, wounds dozens and all that resulted is a short break until the next round, which will be a lot more severe.

One of the residents said, “It’s inconceivable that a terror organization determines whether we will celebrate Independence Day or run to the shelters. My kids are traumatized, they’ll be going to psychologists all their lives, they’re trembling in fear. How much longer is this going to last, we have no strength.” Then he added, “I voted for Bibi.”

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Deep in his heart, he must be thinking: It can’t be that this prime minister is really Netanyahu. He must have secretly been replaced by Buji Herzog. That’s the only way to understand the 10 rounds of indecisive fighting between Israel and Hamas over the past year. That’s the only way to understand the protection money being paid to Hamas. Because Herzog is the weak left, a nerd with no backbone, someone who can’t hold up under pressure, which is why Hamas just ignores him.

It can’t be that Netanyahu is prime minister, because he’s the one who promised in 2009, “We won’t hold the IDF back; we will bring down the Hamas regime.” It can’t be Netanyahu, because during all the previous rounds of fighting he loudly declared that Israel will uproot terror and hit at Hamas until it gets down on its knees and begs for a cease-fire. But the one who’s begging now for a little quiet is actually the prime minister.

When it comes to pompous talk, Netanyahu has a Siamese twin: Avigdor Lieberman. He’s the one who said in 2016, “If I were defense minister, I would give Mr. Ismail Haniyeh 48 hours – either he returns the bodies [of IDF soldiers] and the civilians or you’re dead. Just arrange a grave for yourself in the nearest cemetery.” Haniyeh heard, ordered a grave, and he’s still waiting.

For all that Netanyahu speaks about standing tall and national pride, he has turned Israel into a walled-in ghetto. On the Lebanese border he built a tall wall against Hezbollah, on the West Bank we built the separation barrier, along the Egyptian border he erected a massive 241-kilometer-long fence and along the Gaza border he is now building a crazy concrete wall – six meters above ground and dozens of meters underground, to block tunnels, at a cost of 3 billion shekels ($835 million). That’s how it is when there are no negotiations and there’s no deterrence – you hunker down and brace yourself.

Once we invested in an aggressive air force. Now we invest in defensive missiles – Iron Dome, Magic Wand, Arrow. Maybe Netanyahu should build a transparent metal dome over all of Israel, so that we can leave our homes without fear and stroll the streets of the ghetto.

Once Israel’s security concept was deter and attack. Now it’s fold up and defend. After so many unfulfilled threats, our deterrence has eroded, and we dare not speak about attacking. That’s too dangerous. It might fail and then Netanyahu’s seat will be at risk. That’s also the reason he has abandoned the diplomatic track, which is politically risky but the only way to resolve the problem for the long term.

All this is happening because Netanyahu’s goal is to survive, so he can use his prime ministerial power to prevent his prosecution. That’s why he doesn’t want to shake up anything, only to manage the conflict without resolving it. And if there are lives lost along the way, it’s a reasonable price as far as he’s concerned.

That’s also the reason he isn’t prepared for a ground invasion of Gaza. It puts his job on the line. On the other hand, he is maintaining a suffocating blockade on 2 million human beings who are rotting in poverty and unemployment. For the same reason he isn’t annexing the territories, yet he won’t negotiate with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to reach a diplomatic solution. His doctrine is to sit and do nothing. His tactic is a total diplomatic freeze that will allow him to survive in office longer than David Ben-Gurion.

On the eve of Memorial Day and Independence Day, we are counting our dead: Four civilians in the last round, and 56 soldiers who were added this past year to the list of IDF fallen. That’s the price of a diplomatic stalemate. That’s the price of “managing the conflict.” That’s the price of Benjamin Netanyahu’s cowardice and inaction.