to Bibi or not to Bibi?

Benjamin Netanyahu has been the Prime Minister of Israel for over 10 years; he is the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Israel. During his tenure, Israeli economy improved enormously to the point that Israel is now considered to be a developed nation. The breakthroughs in technology, Medicine, the environment and industry have been nothing short of remarkable, even miraculous.

On the diplomatic front he managed to reverse the expulsion of Israel from Africa, which dated from the 1970s; he established behind the scenes quasi diplomatic relationships with several Arab countries; managed to keep the Russian bear on check in Syria, weathered the Arab Spring and healed a damaged relationship with the US (which, by the way, he was responsible in part for damaging). And maybe more.

On the other side of the coin, he gave the Religious Zionists (a.k.a. Settlements Movement) more power than they ever dreamt of achieving; he damaged the Peace process maybe beyond repair; he became over the years a polarizing factor in Israeli society; he damaged the Israel-Diaspora relations; he dismissed the American Jewish community and replaced them with the Christian Zionists in America; he attacked some of the Democratic institutions of the State; he made very damaging comments about the Arab citizens of Israel alienating them in the process. His track record in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is somehow less than stellar. His political decisions over the years, in particular regarding the Palestinians, provoked a polarization and politization of the US-Israel relation in America and even among American Jews. And maybe more.

In the last (three in one year) elections, he stood his ground to hold to power. But not for the sake of the State, but for the sake of the immunity to prosecution that the office affords him. When the Lavon Affair came to light, David Ben Gurion resigned from the office of Prime Minister to allow the Court to do their job. Yitzhak Rabin resigned when his wife was found to be holding to a checking account in the US that dated back to his tour as Israeli Ambassador to the US; Ehud Olmert resigned when the Court found grounds to prosecute him. Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is doing no such thing. He is holding to power with all he has in order to avoid prosecution by the Court, even threatening the Supreme Court with changes for indicting him (his infamous "you are next" comment). He has even promoted the passage of a bill in the Knesset giving him immunity from the law for anything he has done while serving as Prime Minister.

Bibi Netanyahu reached an agreement in the last election for a rotating position of Prime Minister with Benjamin Gantz, leader of the main opposition to Likkud in the elections, the Blue and White Party (Kahol V'Lavan). As the 18-month deadline for the rotation comes close, there are clear indications that Netanyahu may precipitate the fall of the Government and force new elections rather than relinquishing the Prime Minister position.

Netanyahu's tenure will go into history as a mixed bag. Many positives. Many negatives. Netanyahu himself, however, may go into history as a Prime Minister who put his own personal interest ahead of the interest of the State, and fought with all his might, to remain in power. The truth is that we shouldn't be surprised. More than 10 years in the top office can inebriate the holder with power, and corrupt him/her. Even Netanyahu's natural allies (The right-wing religious parties and the settlements' movement) are starting to make noise that calling for early elections would be a disaster. Will Netanyahu listen?

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