Elections Now

The defense minister’s resignation is a perfect opportunity to put an end to Benjamin Netanyahu’s noxious government

Netanyahu attends an annual state memorial ceremony for Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, at his gravesite in Sde Boker Israel November 14, 2018.
Ronen Zvulun/REUTERS

Wednesday’s resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman isn’t important per se. The Yisrael Beiteinu leader didn’t add much in his role. Still, the erosion of the governing coalition should be used to move up the next general election.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may believe that “this government can complete its term,” as his spokesmen put it. But the completion of its term entails a high price. Naftali Bennett’s Habayit Hayehudi has already demanded the defense portfolio as an ultimatum for staying in the coalition. Even if Netanyahu avoids giving in to this nightmare scenario, he wouldn’t whitewash the destructiveness of the worst government in Israel’s history.

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Netanyahu’s government has no vision or peace plan; it wants to perpetuate the occupation and has no interest in talks with the Palestinians. Netanyahu has brought Israel closer to illiberal democracies and populist governments at the expense of its liberal friends in Europe, while in his approach to the United States he has put all his eggs in the Republican basket, spurning the Democrats as well as America’s Conservative and Reform Jews.

For three years, with the help of Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Netanyahu has been leading a campaign against the rule of law. His government is determined to pass laws that will override High Court rulings, and it’s acting to debilitate ministries’ legal advisers and other gatekeepers. Netanyahu incites against the media, the police, the opposition and human rights groups.

Under his guidance, the Knesset has passed the nation-state law, which expunged the value of equality and enshrined in law Jewish supremacy. Under Netanyahu, Culture Minister Miri Regev has promoted a “cultural loyalty bill” that aims to tilt Israeli culture to the right. Interior Minister Arye Dery got a green light for making asylum seekers as miserable as possible.

Netanyahu exploited his position to pass laws that will ensure he can stay in power even if he’s indicted. Last week the police recommended indictments in the so-called submarine affair; the public learned about the worst corruption case in Israel’s history, one involving Netanyahu associates including his personal lawyer, who is also his cousin and former envoy.

If this government remains in place, Netanyahu will be more vulnerable to pressure than in the past. Politically he’ll have to prove he’s more right-wing than Habayit Hayehudi, and economically he’ll have to contend with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon handing out money and gifts that will further increase the 2018 deficit.

Netanyahu has damaged Israel’s civic fabric. He’s not interested in promoting a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians but is preoccupied solely with his political survival. Now is the time to end the farce of this noxious government.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.