Column: Bye Bye Bibi (We Can Hope)
Benjamin Netanyahu, Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Column: Bye Bye Bibi (We Can Hope)

They are starting to lose that support by the indiscriminate bombing that takes place.’

– President Biden

Bibi, leave already. Please.

President Biden is right. Israel is losing backing from European and other countries, and also Americans, who were shocked by the Hamas raid on southern Israel more than two months ago. Yet attitudes shifted within a few weeks.

Perhaps outrage over Israel’s military response in Gaza – especially bombing that has killed possibly 18,000 Palestinians – can be mitigated if the Israeli government adjusts some of its practices and policies. I can think of a half-dozen steps that Israel can take that starts with the removal of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu as prime minister.

Before Oct. 7, Netanyahu’s governing coalition had severely harmed Israel’s credibility with its plans to expand settlements and annex the West Bank. The Knesset’s far-right majority even alienated a vast number of Israelis when it advanced an overhaul of the country’s judicial system.

Those who are shocked by the Palestinian deaths and destruction have no reason to give Israel the benefit of the doubt for its need to bomb Gaza. Team Bibi has done little to build up credibility.

Let’s concede that it is cynical to stress the political front, the race to present the best image. However, the political struggle over perception has long been a strong influence. The Palestinians win most rounds in distinguishing the good guy from the bad guy. Israel’s standing grew substantially after Hamas wiped out 1,400 Israeli lives on Oct. 7 along the border with Gaza. Then Israel commenced its military campaign, which Hamas claims has caused the deaths of 18,000 Palestinian civilians. That has returned Israel to its status as a pariah.

In the process, Western leaders are pressing Israel to alter its military strategy in order to minimize civilian casualties. The public reaction is so harsh that Biden could lose swing states in his re-election campaign. Muslim and Arab voters from Dearborn, Michigan, could form a sizeable enough bloc to sit out the presidential election, allowing the Republican nominee to the plurality in Michigan, and Black and younger voters could likewise ignore the presidential election.

Two leaders from England and Germany co-wrote in The Sunday Times of London, “We share the view that this conflict cannot drag on. Our goal cannot simply be an end to fighting today. It must be peace lasting for days, years, generations. We therefore support a cease-fire, but only if it is sustainable.”

The authors, Britain Foreign Secretary David Cameron and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, added that Israel would “not win this war if its operations destroy the prospect of peaceful coexistence with Palestinians.”

It is difficult to determine if Israel is doing what is needed to eliminate or weaken Hamas, but observers are not going to trust Israel when:

  • Its prime minister opposes a two-state solution;
  • The ruling coalition intends to expand settlements and annex the West Bank;
  • Israelis known as settlers often attack Palestinians in the West Bank, even killing one;
  • The prime minister is on trial for bribery;
  • He encouraged the flow of money to Hamas;
  • The Knesset pays most of its attention to unpopular legislation to alter the judicial system;
  • The military is blindsided by the Hamas raid.

Why should anyone trust the Israeli government after this? Many Israelis do not trust their own government. If anyone thinks that Israel can do without help from Western countries, then they can cease reading here.

The thousands of Palestinian deaths are almost impossible to stomach. Neither is the prospect of thousands of Israeli deaths in the future. Israeli leaders claim that one cannot be avoided without the other. I lean toward backing the Israeli military response, but I am still not certain. There are steps Israel can take to ease the tension. I doubt if any of this will ever happen, but can’t we hope?

One aspect must be understood. Netanyahu is responsible for protecting Israel and the Hamas leadership is responsible for protecting the people of Gaza. If Hamas was serious about protecting them, they would have befriended Israel long ago.

Netanyahu merits respect for his role in building up Israel, yet he has taken actions that could lead Israel to ruin. The conflict could morph into World War III. He is clearly obsessed with holding on to power. At the age of 74, nearly a decade past the average retirement age, perhaps Netanyahu is solely trying to avoid prison while his bribery trial continues. Or he believes he is the only citizen capable of saving Israel. Maybe he cannot give up his grip on power. Period.

His opposition to a Palestinian state dampens the demands of many critics for such a state, rightly or wrongly. Netanyahu contends that an independent state could serve as a springboard for attacks against Israel, and he cited Oct. 7 as a glaring example. Proponents of a state insist it would provide Palestinians with self-determination.

If Bibi departs as prime minister, many allies would likely breathe a deep sigh of relief. Hopefully, he will be replaced by a more sensible, respected Israeli.

To recapture public backing, the new prime minister must pledge to cease efforts to expand settlements and annex the West Bank, and crack down on West Bank Israelis who attack Palestinians.

The prime minister must also end judicial changes aimed at eroding the powers of the courts. However, it is wise for the Knesset to review the judicial system from time to time for the soul purpose of improving justice for the citizenry.

It likewise makes sense for the Israeli leadership to comply with demands that it commits to negotiations with Palestinians to resolve their conflict.

The Knesset should be accustomed to taking such a stance. Israel has been amenable to compromise since its creation 75 years ago. The most critical opportunity for compromise happened 23 years ago when Israel proposed an independent state comprising Gaza, 93 percent of the West Bank and part of Jerusalem. Then-president of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat, refused to consider the plan and started or facilitated an uprising against Israel.

It is not wise to specify a two-state solution, which in practical terms is the best option. However, Israel and the Palestinians need to look at other prospects which might be more workable, at least on paper.

If the Arab leadership refuses to negotiate or agree to a reasonable deal, then Israeli leaders can proceed on its own with a clear conscience. Again.

About Bruce Ticker

Bruce S. Ticker, who writes from Philadelphia, also blogs for The San Diego Jewish World and Smirking Chimp and previously for the suspended Philadelphia Jewish Voice. He was previously a reporter and copy editor for daily newspapers in eastern Pennsylvania.

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