JERUSALEM, Oct 17 (Reuters) – An Israeli minister has been barred from the visitors’ entrance to a hospital. Another bodyguard was drenched in coffee thrown by a bereaved man. A third yelled at her as a “traitor” and “incompetent” as she came to comfort her evacuated family during her scare.
The shocking massacre by Hamas militants on October 7 rallied Israelis together. But there is little love shown for the government, which is widely accused of letting down the country’s security and drawing it into the Gaza war that has roiled the region.
Whatever happens, judgment day is approaching for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a career of record-breaking political comebacks.
Public anger over the deaths of some 1,300 Israelis is further fueled by Netanyahu’s characteristic self-style as a Churchill strategist who foresaw national security threats.
Another factor is this year’s social polarization over his coalition of religious and nationalist justice reform movements. This led to strikes by some reservists and raised doubts about combat readiness, which some claim has now been revealed in blood.
The top-selling daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronos carried the headline “October 2023 Fiasco”, which referred to Israel’s failure to predict the twin attacks by Egypt and Syria in October 1973. It was a reminder that Golda Meir, then prime minister, was eventually forced to resign.
The ouster was a blow to the hegemony of Meir’s centre-left Labor party. Amotz Asael, a researcher at Jerusalem’s Shalom Hartman Institute, predicted a similar fate for Netanyahu and his long-ruling conservative Likud party.
“It doesn’t matter whether there is a commission of inquiry or whether the prime minister admits responsibility or not. What matters is what the ‘middle Israelis’ think, that this is a huge failure and that the prime minister is responsible.” Asael told Reuters.
“He’s going to leave, and his whole organization is going with him.”
According to a poll by Marib newspaper, 21% of Israelis want Netanyahu to remain prime minister after the war. 66% said “someone else” and 13% were undecided.
Opinion polls show that if elections were held today, Likud would lose a third of its seats, while its main rival, Benny Gantz’s centrist National Unity Party, would gain a third. , the latter will take the top position.
Israel forms emergency war cabinet
But Israelis don’t want ballots now. They want action, and as counterattacks raise the possibility of a ground invasion, Gantz, a former military chief, has decided to put aside political differences and join Prime Minister Netanyahu in an emergency cabinet.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is busy dealing with senior officials and foreign envoys and has limited contact with the public. He met with relatives of about 200 hostages taken to Gaza without television cameras present. Amid growing protests, his wife visited her family in mourning.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has also not made any statements regarding personal responsibility. The prime minister’s top generals, defense minister, national security adviser, foreign minister, finance minister and intelligence chief have admitted they failed to predict and prevent the worst attack on civilians in Israel’s history. Despite that.
Israel has vocal support in the West for its counterattack. That idea may fade if the invasion of Gaza becomes mired in increased Palestinian casualties and military losses.
The war could also shatter two pillars of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s foreign policy. One is peace with Saudi Arabia, which is currently in an ice age, and the other is reining in Iran, which hails Hamas’s small-scale invasion as a victory for the Middle East Axis, which has vowed to destroy Israel.
Military planners say the war in Gaza, with the goal of wiping out Hamas, could last for months. Asael said Netanyahu would enjoy a political truce during that period. Whether the prime minister’s health can withstand it is another matter. He was fitted with a pacemaker in July as judicial protests soared. He turns 74 on Saturday.
Some commentators have suggested that the rifts within Israeli society and the extent to which they undermine national security cannot be attributed solely to Prime Minister Netanyahu, but must have broader causes.
“We forgot that we are brothers and went to war,” Amit Segal, a political analyst at leading TV station Channel 12, said on Telegram. “It’s not too late to mend. No more fighting.”
Asahel said there already appeared to be rifts within the coalition government, citing heaping contempt for some ministers.
“You can hear natural Likud supporters on the streets talking about them with obvious hostility,” he said. “The anger is only growing. It’s clear that Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to avoid his responsibility, but the public’s anger is only growing. He can’t bring himself to say, ‘We failed.’ ”
Written by Dan Williams.Editing: Howard Goller
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