Can we still rally around our Prime Minister, even now?
This is a segment from The “Things Change” Edition.
And now it is time for our second discussion.
So, Don, can the streets fill with demonstrators calling for Benjamin Netanyahu to resign while Benjamin Netanyahu is leading our sons and daughters to fight and die in Gaza?
If you drive down the Iolone Highway, maybe the most traveled road in Israel, you’ll see huge billboards within the background, a somewhat sinister black and gray photograph of Benjamin Netanyahu, on top of which, in bright letters, other words, Bibi, what did you do?
You have torn the country in two.
In the corner of the billboards is the logo of Achim Laneshek, Brothers in Arms, a group of IDF reservists that is behind much of the astonishing logistics of the protest movement against the judicial reform, and more recently has been behind the astonishing logistics of the big clearing house of volunteered goods and services at the expo in Tel Aviv and around the country.
These billboards went up a few days before the Hamas massacre on October 7th as part of a campaign of the protest group to try to drum up public pressure on the prime minister to resign.
After the massacre, the campaign was frozen because it’s a truism of Israeli politics that during a catastrophe and during a war, it is proper to desist from normal domestic party politics and to rally around flag and army.
This truism, though, may be on the verge of becoming untrue in front of our eyes for several reasons.
For one thing, what we can see of the government’s response to the massacre has been poor.
Most terribly on the day, confusion reigned everywhere.
The army’s response was slow and disorganized and dozens, maybe hundreds of people died as a result.
The prime minister and defense minister made only brief, agitated statements, leaving citizens like us to scroll through our feeds in despair, feeling as though no one is in charge.
It took 36 hours before all the terrorists were killed or driven out of the country.
After that, the government remained almost invisible.
No one phoned the families of victims or captives in Gaza.
Families from the Kibbutzim, Moshevim, and towns around Gaza were ordered to leave their homes, but just where they were supposed to go, this was in many cases left up in the air.
Reserve soldiers who got messages to join their units found when they got there that they were short on supplies.
A lot of the shortfall was taken up by that huge outpouring of people willing to give stuff and time to help people who needed help.
Groups like Achim Laneshek took the lead in coordinating these efforts, and they did an amazing job, which only served to make the apparent absence of the government all the more obvious.
In addition to the failures of the government he leads, Benjamin Netanyahu’s personal failings also quickly came into view.
There was an expectation that after so huge a tragedy, the ruling coalition would invite leading opposition parties to join what is called a national unity government.
Something like this eventually happened after five long days when Benny Gantz’s national unity party joined the government, and Gantz joined the three-person war cabinet alongside Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.
Before that happened, reports surfaced that Netanyahu had hesitated opening the ranks of the government because he worried that after the war with Gaza ended, his new government would collapse, and he would have a hard time reconstituting his old one.
This was seen as sacrificing the national unity needed to wage war successfully for the sake of Netanyahu’s own midterm political fortunes.
It was seen this way because that’s exactly what it was.
Benjamin Netanyahu also refused to accept any responsibility for the failures that led to the disasters on October 7th, even as many of the ministers in his government who are in fact far less responsible for the failures than Netanyahu, and IDF generals have uttered the words, I bear some responsibility.
The growing frustration over Netanyahu’s refusal to acknowledge any personal responsibility came to a boil this week following Netanyahu’s first press conference since the catastrophe, after which the prime minister tweeted the following, in contrast to the false claims, under no circumstances and at no time was a warning given to prime minister Netanyahu of the warlike intentions of Hamas.
The opposite, all the security apparatus, including the heads of the intelligence branch, Amman, and the heads of the general security services, Shabbat, judge that Hamas is deterred and seeks accommodation.
That is the evaluation that was submitted time after time to the prime minister and the cabinet by all of the security apparatus and the intelligence community up until the war broke out.
This tweet with its throwing under the bus of the security people who are so essential to the successful prosecution of the war we now find ourselves in was seen by almost everyone as a tremendous lapse of judgment on Netanyahu’s part.
Lots of people also saw it as a pack of lies and those following Netanyahu’s 24-7 campaign to save his own skin argued that the tweet had already served its purpose before he took it down.
It signaled to his army of media and social media trolls who they should be sliming in their commentaries and toxic posts.
In light of all this, there are those who think that it is now time for the first time in Israel’s history to call for the resignation of a prime minister while a war is underway.
Harris ran a lead editorial with the headline, Netanyahu’s coalition must remove him immediately and it is not just to Aritz.
Ma’ariv columnist Ben Caspi called for Netanyahu to be pushed out of the premiership because he is simply not capable of successfully leading the country through the war.
On social media, calls for Netanyahu to go are growing more numerous and more extreme.
An umbrella group of the groups behind the judicial reform protests called Khosey Khadash, a new contract, has spent nights over the past week in meetings discussing from every angle the question of whether they should launch a wartime campaign calling for the replacement of the prime minister.
Even among people who think that Netanyahu needs to go, a group that now, according to polls, includes three of every four Israelis, many think it’s a mistake to call for him to go now because now what we need is stability.
Because whomever replaces Netanyahu will need time to learn the ropes and with a war going on, there is no time because 25% of the country still believe that Netanyahu is best suited to be our prime minister and any organized effort to oust him will destroy the unity that was forged in the aftermath of the October 7th disaster because we can’t run an election during the war.
So whoever replaces Netanyahu will be unelected, at least for the time being, and his legitimacy would be open to question.
So that’s our question.
Allison, do you think people ought to be calling now for Netanyahu’s resignation or ouster?
Or should the old consensus continue to stand that whatever price needs to be paid by a prime minister or mistakes that led to a disastrous war can only be assessed after the disastrous war is over?
Well, I’ll sure call for his resignation or ouster.
What’s wrong with calling for it?
You know, I wish he would resign, you know, please God that he would resign.
The ouster is a little bit more complicated.
If you don’t want a new election and we can’t have a new election now, he would have to be ousted by his Likud party and replaced by a member of the Likud party.
I’m all for that.
I wish that would happen, whether from an internal Likud initiative or from the coalition as a whole.
It’s not going to happen.
I can call for it.
I can want it.
I can think it’s what should happen, which I do.
But, you know, again, I don’t think that it is going to happen for all of the reasons you said.
To the list of sins of terrible things that Netanyahu has done or not done, that means that he deserves it.
I think one of the biggest reasons is just that what we saw in Joe Biden, just that humanness of, you know, that embrace, that kind of human leadership, and together with the lack of taking, you know, practical responsibility for what happened, not feeling the country’s pain, not being the human face of Israelis right now, and just having dug into his crazy, paranoid, little cuckoo cut off world more than ever during this time.
You know, that’s one of the reasons I think that he’s the most unqualified to be a leader of the country right now, is that, you know, he hasn’t been seen at hospitals.
He hasn’t been seen among the people.
He’s still so scared about the political implications of raising his head.
There was a picture of him with soldiers, and he was surrounded by these masked guys carrying huge guns, and he had insisted that the soldiers, the IDF soldiers, be disarmed.
He doesn’t feel confident to be among IDF soldiers with their weapons.
I mean, on every moral plane, moral and practical, and, you know, shirking responsibility personally, every way he should not be our prime minister right now, but I accept that he is, and I accept that it’s not going to happen.
It doesn’t mean that I think it’s a good thing.
Let me put the question this way.
I think we can almost stipulate in this context, the three of us in this room, but I think in this city, but practically in the country, we can stipulate that Benjamin Netanyahu not only should not, he will not be prime minister the next opportunity there is to replace him.
So let me ask the question this way, Alison, should 150,000 people be at Kaplan in the street at this moment while people are fighting calling for the resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu?
Because this is the question that’s been coming up in the meetings, even meetings that I’ve been to over the last week where the leaders of the protests are trying to decide, do we do this or don’t we do this?
And it’s a really fiendishly hard decision because it will immediately end this feeling of unity that we feel in the country that I think is valuable at a moment of war.
The fact that the soldiers who are fighting don’t feel as though their parents are back behind the lines fighting over whether they ought to be led by the people they’re being led by.
So the question is, should there be a big demonstration with people from the stage saying Benjamin Netanyahu resign immediately?
I don’t think there should be a re-pivot and a reallocation of time, energy, and resources which these protest movements have correctly and bravely and amazingly poured into the war effort and supporting the home front.
I mean, that is where the time and energy needs to go.
So if you’re asking me, do I think resources, time, energy, attention should be invested in a mass protest movement?
My answer is no.
Do I think that if 150,000 people of their own volition really believe this and want to show up and not in an organized way or express themselves, I think that anyone can express themselves and call for the ouster.
Well, I mean, obviously, it’s a matter of free speech.
The question is whether the question that people are asking in these rooms are, should we organize this?
By the way, it’s not really an issue of diverting resources because they can do it like that.
They can do it in a second.
They have the money.
They put the ads in the newspaper and there are 150,000 people there Saturday night.
It’s just a matter of, is it the right decision?
And I got to say.
No, it’s not the right decision.
Because of the unity?
No, not because I, again, like you can say resources, resources, but people only have a certain amount of time, energy, attention.
You know, I’m exhausted.
We’re all exhausted.
So no, I don’t think that the amount of energy, focus and resources, even though you say it only takes a few ads of the, of the general public right now should be focused on that on if you, if you say, should people call for it?
Yes, people should call for it.
Should it be a big organized effort?
In my opinion, no, not right now.
So I think we have to keep up the drumbeat that we have to get rid of Netanyahu.
And we have to keep up the drumbeat of unity at the same time.
And we have to separate those two issues.
We are not rallying.
How do we?
Because we’re not rallying behind Netanyahu.
We’re rallying behind the army.
We’re rallying behind the people rallying behind the hostages and their families.
We’re rallying behind the victims.
And I think that’s the trick, which is why I don’t think we should have 150,000 people in a demonstration because after the war, I want half a million people to demonstration, including 300,000 who never came to one of these demonstrations.
There will be.
That’s, that has to happen.
It’s also not safe to have a demonstration right now, by the way.
Also, but, but the drumbeat has to be kept up so that as soon as the war is at some resolution, people have been hearing the messages all along, BBS to go, BBS to go, BBS to go.
And then we have to seize the moment and have the huge mass of protests beyond anything we saw, you know, to try to stop the judicial overhaul.
Now, I just want to leave one other side of this.
Yes, he’s not going to resign.
We all know that he’s not going to do that.
That’s not in his name.
It’s not one of the possibilities.
You know, you said it doesn’t seem, hasn’t have the human touch.
I don’t think he acts like a human being anymore.
And I think, I think the megalomania and paranoia is so deep, which does make him unfit.
But there’s kind of a notion in the air when I hear this, that if BBS resigns, Benny Gantz would become prime minister, which is not what would happen.
No, he doesn’t like him.
No, no, no.
That’s not how the system works.
I mean, Gantz has positioned himself well, showing willingness to sacrifice his political fortunes for the good of the country.
And I think rightfully so, wanting to help prosecute this war.
You know, but for Gantz to become prime minister, two things would have to happen.
Either would have to have new elections, or an alternative coalition of Knesset members numbering at least 61 Knesset members would come forward and say, we are now willing to supplant the current coalition.
That can happen.
And we will now take over the government and that if they choose Gantz to lead them, although his party is not that big, it’s just polling well in the polls, you know, that he could become prime minister.
Otherwise, the number two in the Likud is Yarev Levine.
Can you imagine the country rallying behind Yarev Levine or Elie Cohen, the number three, who is seen as a joke of a foreign minister.
Yoav Gallant is number four.
He needs to be running the war.
You know, so, again, looking at how the system actually works, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
I think we have to find that way to keep the anti-BB drum beat up going and highlighting all of his failings as a leader and personally, while stressing unity and keeping everyone together.
And then it has to all come out once the war is resolved in some way.
I think that’s all there, all that needs to be said on the matter.