Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will break the record this week for time in office, exceeding that of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. But as opposed to Israel’s founder, who took no small risks to establish and develop the country, the hallmark of Netanyahu’s rule has been a lack of bold diplomatic, military or economic steps. The prime minister, who is running for another term, adheres to the status quo in every area and has let the country’s fundamental problems deteriorate while he is busy with political maneuvers – and legal ones – with the goal of staying in office longer and longer, without goals or plans of action beyond holding on to the reins of government.
Netanyahu has avoided major wars (except for Operation Protective Edge in the south five years ago) and has kept Israel out of the civil war in Syria. But he sees continued occupation and settlement in the territories as desirable, and with the help of his political partners on the right he is strengthening the foundation of an apartheid regime in the West Bank. He has put to sleep the internal debate on the territories and peace, but despite the seeming consensus, Israel still doesn’t have recognized borders, millions of Palestinians are still groaning under its rule and in the West, a boycott movement has awakened.
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Israel has enjoyed slow growth and low unemployment in the Netanyahu era, but even in the economic sphere the basic problems have only gotten worse under a cloak of stability. The ultra-Orthodox, on which his rule rests solidly, bribed Netanyahu to perpetuate parasitic unemployment-by-choice at the expense of taxpayers. Instead of leading essential reforms, he increased the deficit and bought quiet from the powerful forces in the economy.
Netanyahu did the most severe damage in three areas: Jewish-Arab relations, the social fabric and the personal example of leadership he set. The nation-state law that he pushed for reinforces discrimination against Arabs in favor of Jewish entitlement, and smashes the aspiration to equality. During his term, incitement has become rife and the rifts in society have deepened. The corruption that has characterized his rule has become worse the longer he has stayed in office, and Netanyahu is even proud of it.
The time has come for the political world and the public to say to the prime minister: We’ve had it. Let Netanyahu deal with the indictments he’s expected to face without dragging the country down to the depths with him.