Disgraced Departure of Benjamin Netanyahu from Israeli Politics

Netanyahu’s argument against postwar plans and operations is that the war isn’t over and “there is no alternative to military victory.

6 mins read
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Source: AAP


The world, including many in Israel, is fed up with the behavior of Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose departure from the Israeli political scene now appears to be the only solution for peace in the Middle East. Benjamin Netanyahu must depart in disgrace as he and his wife are charged with selling priceless jewelry, which they received as gifts on their trips abroad but should have been deposited in the state treasury.


The two main corruption scandals involving Netanyahu concern allegations of illicit dealings with rich and powerful men. In one case, Netanyahu is accused of receiving expensive gifts from billionaires and then taking action on their behalf. In another case, he is accused of striking an illicit deal with a newspaper publisher. Netanyahu is alleged to have received tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of gifts. Netanyahu has acknowledged receiving the gifts but denies they were illegal or constituted bribes. He is also involved in two other corruption scandals, and his wife and son are in trouble too.


Meanwhile, Sara Netanyahu is likely to be indicted for misusing public funds at the couple’s official residences. The Israeli first lady is accused of using government money to pay for private chefs at family events, a caregiver for her father, and weekend electrical work at the couple’s home. The allegations have long dogged Sara Netanyahu, who sometimes comes off in the Israeli media as the country’s Marie Antoinette.


Netanyahu could be nearing indictment but might still stay in office. So what does this mean for the prime minister, who has governed Israel since the beginning of the Obama administration? It depends on two factors: whether he is indicted and whether that creates enough pressure to force him to resign. If police recommend an indictment, it could still take several months until the attorney general formally indicts Netanyahu. Even then, he isn’t legally required to resign. This is why the prime minister’s fate may come down to pressure from fellow politicians and the public. A poll found that 66 percent of Israelis believe Netanyahu should resign if indicted. There is intrigue within Netanyahu’s Likud party as well, with some ministers openly backing him while another, speaking anonymously, said he should resign if indicted.


Israeli officials and generals are turning on the prime minister, and the country must adjust course. Fareed Zakaria added that on Gaza, Biden is right and Netanyahu is wrong. Something very unusual is happening in Israel. Senior military officials have begun voicing criticism of how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is conducting the war in Gaza. Israeli media has been reporting on a weekend security meeting at which the chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Gen. Herzi Halevi, criticized Netanyahu’s lack of a clear strategy. Pointing out that the Israeli military had reentered northern Gaza — an area it had claimed to have cleared in January — Halevi warned that unless there was a plan to set up some kind of non-Hamas government in these areas, the IDF would have to keep repeating these kinds of operations endlessly. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has gone further, publicly criticizing Netanyahu by pointing out that “the day after Hamas will only be achieved by actors who replace Hamas” and declaring that he would not permit Israel to try to govern Gaza directly.

A stunning victory with the shield creates an opening for Israel. The Middle East is on the precipice of a wider war no one wants. Guernica doubles down on retraction of an essay on the Israel-Gaza war. Much has been written about whether the Israeli military is being careful or callous in its concern for civilian casualties when carrying out its attacks in Gaza. But the larger point has to do with its counterinsurgency strategy. In the United States’ only successful counterinsurgency campaign in recent memory — the 2007 surge in Iraq — its strategy was designed to protect the civilian population, isolate the insurgents, and then crush them. To that end, Army Gen. David Petraeus worked tirelessly with Iraq’s Sunnis — the community spawning the insurgency — to win them over, give them a stake in Iraq’s government, and thus isolate the insurgents and militias. He then used lethal force against those militias. This is almost the inverse of Israel’s strategy, which has been first and foremost to go after Hamas, guns blazing, with very little regard for winning the hearts and minds of Gaza’s civilian population.

Netanyahu’s argument against postwar plans and operations is that the war isn’t over and “there is no alternative to military victory. The attempt to bypass it with this or that claim is simply detached from reality.” Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that he would continue the war until he achieves total victory, by which he presumably means either a surrender by Hamas or its total eradication.


Fareed Zakaria added that from early on in the war, the Biden administration has believed that Netanyahu’s strategy was flawed because there was no way to defeat Hamas militarily without a political strategy to isolate it and offer an alternative that had some credibility and legitimacy. That was why the White House wanted to begin discussions with the Palestinian Authority and a group of Arab states, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to make plans for reconstruction and governance in a non-Hamas Gaza. Netanyahu will not consider any such plans. Netanyahu refuses to talk about the postwar because he knows that his own postwar future is bleak. Many Israelis continue to hold him responsible for the policies that led to the Oct. 7 attack. Were new elections to be called, he would likely lose office — and then face ongoing prosecution as well as potential inquiries about the failures that led to Oct. 7. All of this can be pushed off as long as the prime minister insists on a Hamas surrender, which he will not get but will keep the war going indefinitely. It is a strategy not designed to secure Israel’s future but rather his own.


Given the complexities enmeshed in the world today, where the rise of China along with the limitless friendship between Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin is putting the world into two sides — one led by the USA and her colleagues — it is clear that multipolarity has become a fact of life. In the words of Nina Khrushcheva, great-granddaughter of the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who was responsible for destroying the bilateral relationship by denouncing Stalin in 1956: Stalin was never a loyal ally to China. As Khrushcheva recalled, in 1951, when the Korean War had reached a stalemate, the Soviet dictator derided Mao as a talentless guerrilla fighter.

In any case, Putin was not in Beijing just for the show. Since he launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine two years ago — and the West responded with unprecedented sanctions — Russia has become highly dependent on China. So, when Putin landed in Beijing, his hand was practically already outstretched. But Xi, like Stalin 75 years ago, has reservations. Yes, Russia has its uses. As Xi noted at the recent summit, he views the bilateral relationship as a “factor in maintaining global strategic stability and democratization of international relations.” That helps to explain why, as Putin pointed out, the two countries have created a “weighty portfolio” of 80 major investment projects.

There are, however, clear limits on what China is willing to sacrifice for Russia. Start with the economy. In recent months, Xi has met with several Western leaders, including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. All of them relayed the same message: if China keeps supplying “dual-use” materials and technologies that can bolster Russia’s war effort, its firms will face secondary sanctions. Xi made sure to come across as unmoved. But it is probably no coincidence that Chinese exports to Russia have declined, falling by 14% in March alone. Moreover, since the beginning of this year, China has steadily reduced direct deliveries of machinery, equipment (including electrical equipment), mechanical parts, and accessories to Russia. Given that China is Russia’s largest source of imports — accounting for about 45% of the total last year — this is a major cause for concern in the Kremlin.

In addition, China has been dragging its feet when it comes to the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline, which will transport Russian gas to China. Well aware that he has the upper hand, Xi expects Russia to foot the entire bill for the pipeline’s multi-billion-dollar construction, while continuing to offer China steep discounts on energy. This year, China paid just $300 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas pumped through the Power of Siberia-1 pipeline, while Europe and Turkey paid more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters. Progress on the Power of Siberia-2 pipeline is so important to Putin that he brought Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who is responsible for energy relations, with him to Beijing. But all Novak could offer after the meeting was a vague assurance that a contract will be signed “in the near future.”

Putin’s Mao-like bid for a full-fledged military alliance, including commitments to mutual defense, also seems to have failed. Though China has held joint military exercises with Russia, it has sought to position itself as a proponent of “win-win cooperation,” in contrast to the “Cold War mentality” that assumes the world’s division into competing blocs. Why would Xi jeopardize his position as a kind of conduit between Russia and the West? Xi is not interested in quarreling, at least not overtly, and Putin’s agenda includes nothing but quarrels. The world, complex as it has become, has to hold its breath to see how things unfold in the future. It is, however, certain that the cost of annihilation of the adventurists, including a nuclear race, is not in the cards.

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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