The Only Way to Get Rid of Netanyahu

Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak
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Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking to the press at the Knesset.
Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking to the press at the Knesset, Dec. 2, 2020.Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90
Ehud Barak
Ehud Barak

So what do we have here? A deceptive pandemic and a third lockdown that will waste another 10 billion shekels (over $3 billion), put another 130,000 people out of work and force tens of thousands of businesses to close – a lockdown about which Israel’s leading experts, in a letter to the coronavirus cabinet, wrote: “Your decision is based on data that is full of deceptions, errors and deflections.”

We all hope the vaccine drive will be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. The handling of the crisis, however, has been an unprecedented failure of management and of leading by example which demands that conclusions be drawn about the head man, Benjamin Netanyahu.

How Bibi pushed a 4th election and 3rd lockdown, and how we exposed his secret flights. LISTEN

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According to his closest supporters up until last week, such as cabinet minister Zeev Elkin, the prime minister has subordinated the interests of the state and its citizens in order to evade justice and cultivate a personality cult. A criminal defendant who is shattering Israeli democracy and behaving like a mafia don, using his minions to intimidate and incriminate his investigators, his prosecutors and lately his judges as well. This not what our comrades, the forever young ones who are buried in military cemeteries, dreamed of and fought for. We deserve more.

The entire world is in the midst of an unresolved crisis. The challenges facing humanity demand a broad outlook and international cooperation. Politics, by contrast, is local, populist, ultranationalist, anti-foreigner, anti-migrant, narrow-minded and drowning in corruption. Among the challenges: pandemics, climate change, terror, economy and opportunity within, as well as among nations, international trade and the global supply chain.

The political outlook, however, including that of the United States, Israel, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Brazil and the Philippines, is disturbing. The election of Joe Biden in November and the potential ousting of Netanyahu in March could herald the sobering up and eventual emergence from the crisis of lively democratic societies. 

We need a fundamental correction, a new social and political contract that will bring hope to young people and give Israel a “restart”: a new leadership, with a fresh spirit of honesty and integrity. Service and a sense of mission instead of power, money and honor. Solidarity, internal reconciliation, and equal opportunities for all, alongside a demand for responsibility from each individual and each community.

It will take more than three months. “Restart Israel” is a worthy goal, but it’s crucial that we understand what’s required in the meantime.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lawyers at the Jerusalem District court as his corruption trial begins, May 2020. Credit: RONEN ZVULUN / POOL / AFP

What comes first; removing Netanyahu or returning to power the liberal-democratic camp that is loyal to Israel’s Declaration of Independence and the principle of equality?

The answer is obvious: Ousting the criminal defendant must happen first. In three months, when Israelis cast their ballots, they will be thinking above all about their livelihood and the upheavals brought about by the coronavirus, and perhaps Netanyahu’s attempts to be seen as a “savior.” Important issues such as annexation vs. ending the occupation or religion-state relations, must be set aside until after Netanyahu is gone.

The right as we knew it is disintegrating. Elkin’s move from Likud to Gideon Sa’ar’s party is a positive development that will hurt Netanyahu, make Sa’ar less attractive to Kahol Lavan voters and prevent Naftali Bennett from holding the swing vote.

The fragmentation in the center left is more worrisome. The disappointment with Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi undermines voter self-confidence and is developing into a sense of helplessness. The addition of another two or three small parties would deepen the disintegration and the despair, even if they have excellent leaders and enthusiastic supporters. The borders between the blocs have blurred.

Netanyahu, the Haredim and Bennett will not win 60 Knesset seats. And if Bibi’s “brotherhood” with the Islamic Movement in Israel doesn’t take off, anything is possible. The Haredim will have no choice but to go with Sa’ar and Avigdor Lieberman, and even with Yair Lapid and Ron Huldai. But the only way to effect change after election day is to join hands responsibly.

It almost happened with the April 2019 election – too bad it didn’t – and it could happen again. A broad coalition, from Lapid to Meretz, through close coordination and covert but continuous talks with Lieberman, Sa’ar and the Haredi parties starting well before the election.

With Huldai and Tzipi Livni, Avi Nissenkorn and Gadi Eisenkot, Ofer Shelah, Nitzan Horowitz and the anti-Netanyahu protest activists – only together will it be possible to remove Netanyahu from Balfour Street, influence Israel’s future and restore the center left to power, at the head of Restart Israel.

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