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Benjamin Netanyahu

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Not to be confused with his equally extremist father Benzion Netanyahu.Wikipedia
Benjamin Netanyahu in 2019.
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Israel is not a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.
—Prime Minister Netanyahu publicly admitting his country is an apartheid state.[1][2]
Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews. And Haj Amin al-Husseini [Palestinian nationalist] went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here...Burn them.
—Merkel then had to remind Bibi that Germany actually did it.[3][4]
These are the basic lines of the national government headed by me: the Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the land of Israel.
—Netanyahu publicly embracing ethnonationalism, unfettered apartheid, and permanent occupation, all cause he doesn't wanna go to jail.[5]


Benjamin "(You have the brain of a dehydrated) Bibi" Netanyahu (1949–) is the pro-apartheid,[note 1] war criminal, Chairman of the Likud Party and current Prime Minister of Israel, having replaced (or ousted) the outgoing Ariel Sharon. If Sharon was Israel's Bush, Netanyahu was its Cheney. Nicknamed King Bibi, both by supporters and detractors, he is one of the most virulently hawkish Israeli national leaders in their history.[note 2] Back when he was still calling himself Ben Nitay and recently free from service in Sayeret Matkal, he was already intransigent, vowing at the age of 27 that Palestine would never have a state, one promise that he has kept his word on.[6] He has since, however, said that there would be conditions under which he'd accept a Palestinian state,[7] only to flipflop on that later for domestic political gain.

Israeli elections are weirdly complicated. It's a parliamentary system which votes for parties, who in turn vote in coalitions. Netanyahu is quite adept at forming coalitions of his right-wing Likud, religious parties who can't stand the secularism of the left, and a few centrist parties who align with him more out of hatred for the Left than affection for him. That's not to say he doesn't have a lot of support, but a big factor in his success is his prowess in navigating the parliamentary system. He's also quite good at PR, frequently giving interviews in English to US media outlets, which stands out in marked contrast to many of his predecessors who had a weird accent when speaking English or avoided it entirely. In the U.S., candidates will often pivot toward the center in the general election. Netanyahu does the same, then reverts back to his obstructionism once the ballots are counted.

Netanyahu was the longest serving prime minister in the history of Israel, surpassing the founding father David Ben-Gurion.[8] Netanyahu is also the only Prime Minister (thus far) who was actually born in Israel after its founding; all previous ones were either immigrants or were born in what is now Israel before the state's establishment.

He was finally kicked out of power in June 13, 2021, after twelve years as Prime Minister of Israel and two major wars in Gaza. [9] His successor is former defense minister Naftali Bennett, who has described himself as "more right wing" than Netanyahu.[10] After Bennett resigned, Yair Lapid took over and faced Netanyahu, who returned as Leader of the Opposition, and in the 2022 elections, Netanyahu won yet again after a year of being out of power. Now he has pledged to be as close to fascist as humanely possible due to his coalition of far-right extremists heading his government.

Role in Sharon government[edit]

Oslo'sWikipedia failure was not in the text itself, but the failure of subsequent talks at Camp David, with both Sharon and Netanyahu looming large in the background. One major stumbling block was the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, which removed a progressive Israeli PM from the equation.[note 3] Netanyahu has been accused of inciting violence at the time and causing Rabin's death.[11][12]

Rabin's successor, Shimon Peres, was PM until being defeated by Netanyahu in '97. While Rabin was in the "Peace Camp", Netanyahu was not. He renegotiated the status of Hebron to give the Palestinian Authority military power. However, he also stopped the Wye River land deal as envisioned by the Oslo Accords. He was also caught on tape bragging about how he purposely derailed the Oslo Accords by reneging on the Hebron Agreement later on.[13] Even before he was PM, though, Netanyahu criticized what he called Arafat and the PA's "revolving-door policy" on terrorism.[14]

The Camp David Summit was promising, and both sides came very close to a solution. Clinton blamed the failure on Arafat, who didn't say 'no', but could never quite bring himself to say 'yes.' Clinton wrote, "I warned Arafat that he was single-handedly electing Sharon and that he would reap the whirlwind."[15] After the failure of Camp David, things changed considerably. Hardliner Sharon was voted PM; the Second Intifada broke out; Hamas and Fatah split, also splitting the governments of Gaza and the West Bank, along with a strengthened, autonomous Hamas which made negotiation more difficult.

Netanyahu sharply criticized Sharon's disengagement from Gaza, believing that Israel should have maintained full control over it.

Premierships[edit]

Netanyahu discussing the War on Terror with Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, 2002.
We are benefiting from one thing, and that is the attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon, and the American struggle in Iraq. [The events] swung American public opinion in our favor.
—Netanyahu's comments uncovered in 2008.[16]

He was first prime minister from 1996 (the one time the premiership was directly elected) to 1999, where he ran an American-style negative campaign which demonized his opponents to hell and back; he lost to Ehud Barak, who used the exact same tactics, in 1999.

While he's mostly remembered for his foreign policy, Netanyahu's domestic policy is hardly any better, as in each of his four terms, he privatized state-run industries and set the country into a free market wasteland that led to economic fuck-up after economic fuck-up; a housing crisis has characterized his latest tenure.

As Minister of Finance in 2003-2005, Netanyahu instituted a program to end welfare dependency by requiring people to apply for jobs or training. The once-venerated safety net was demolished. He also reduced the size of the public sector, reformed and streamlined the taxation system, and attacked monopolies and cartels to increase competition. These Thatcherite policies enriched the few while depowering the many, leading to Israel having one of the largest wealth gaps in the world.[17] In his defense he speaks a very clear and eloquent American English (to be exact, Philadelphia EnglishWikipedia from spending his teenage years with his family in Cheltenham TownshipWikipedia) which is particularly evident in his addresses to the world (mostly American) media and the United Nations.

He became the leader of Likud and Opposition Leader shortly thereafter, returned to power in 2009, and subsequently won two more terms in 2013 and 2015. In November of 2015, Spain issued an arrest warrant for Netanyahu and for seven other former and current government officials. A Spanish national court judge ordered the police and civil guard to notify him if Netanyahu sets foot on Spanish soil. The case concerns an attack by Israeli security forces against an international "Freedom Flotilla" aid ship in 2010 that was trying to break an Israeli blockade and reach Gaza. The flotilla was carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials. During the raid Israeli forces killed nine human rights activists.[18]

Positions[edit]

It is stunning how much Bibi’s actions serve Tehran’s strategic interests
The Mustache of Understanding[19]

Mideast policy[edit]

If you take out Saddam’s regime, I guarantee you, that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.
—Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2002. Owch.[20]

He was one of the neocons who said removing Saddam Hussein would bring a "guarantee" of stability and security in the region, and firmly pushed for the Iraq War.[20][21] He has constantly claimed, year after year, that Iran is either close to obtaining nukes, about to obtain nukes, or has already obtained nukes. He claims to believe that Iran is looming as nuclear threat to Israel but leaked reports from the Mossad have consistently debunked his bullshit on Iran making any nukes at all.[22][23] The war with Iran remains on the table for Israel and their Sunni allies of convenience; they just need to amp up the provocations until America is forced into another war in the Middle-East that will gain us nothing but eternal enmity and more war.[24]

Palestine[edit]

Netanyahu's record on Palestine is likely his worst policy (along with his marrying off the right wing to the religious fundamentalists of the country). He's basically a neocon Republican, elected to make sure that nothing meaningful gets done about a Palestinian state. This is no coincidence: Ron Dermer and Michael Oren before him both have conspired with the GOP in ongoing efforts to thwart American interests in the Middle-East and elsewhere.[25][26] Likud is also modeling their attack ads on Republican ones.[27]

He is infamous for repeatedly building settlements on Palestinian soil, and justifying his actions by claiming that it's Israeli, not Palestinian, land that he's settling. Netanyahu demanded the full demilitarization of the proposed state, with no army, rockets, missiles, or control of its airspace, and said that Jerusalem would be undivided Israeli territory. He stated that the Palestinians should recognize Israel as the Jewish national state with an undivided Jerusalem. He rejected a right of return for Palestinian refugees, saying, "any demand for resettling Palestinian refugees within Israel undermines Israel's continued existence as the state of the Jewish people."[28]

Another controversy spawned when Netanyahu stated that he would accept a Palestinian state — purportedly he would do this if an undivided Jerusalem becomes the undisputed capital of Israel,[note 4] the Palestinians disband their army and the Palestinians revoke their demand for a right of return. Of course, Netanyahu has almost certainly never intended to permit a Palestinian State:

In his 2000 book, A Durable Peace, Netanyahu outlined his vision for any future self-governing Palestinian territory, one that bore little resemblance to actual statehood. “Many in the world have blithely accepted the notion that the Palestinians must have their own independent state,” Netanyahu wrote. “When I am asked about a Palestinian state, I answer in the negative.” Instead of statehood, Netanyahu proposed the creation of a “Palestinian entity,” a governing body with some rights of limited self-governance but not full independence.[29]

So, neither the status of Jerusalem, nor any positions the Palestinians might revoke, would likely alter Netanyahu's opposition to a Palestinian state.

In spite of all of this, he has stated that he "cares more about Palestinians than their own leaders do", thus cementing his position as Palestine's abusive husband.[30]

Bombing Gaza[edit]

Highlights of Netanyahu's easy recourse to devastating use of Israel's military include two wars in Gaza, one in 2012 and another in 2014, the more infamous being the latter. In the summer of 2014 he presided over a 51-day bombardment that massacred thousands of Palestinian civilians. During this massacre, a UN shelter was shelled despite the UN repeatedly warning Israel that it was for hospital purposes and that it had hundreds of children inside it.[31] Even those who normally defend Israel's wars, and aggression, like Joe Scarborough or Bill Maher, were taken aback at the brutality of the 2014 Gaza war. Many were especially appalled when Netanyahu told CNN the Gazans crave dead civilians to use these "telegenically dead" to win support.[32][33][34]

Controversial statements on the Holocaust[edit]

Netanyahu front-and-center at the World Holocaust Forum in 2020.

In October 2015 when addressing a group of Jewish leaders, Netanyahu caused an uproar when he claimed the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-HusseiniWikipedia (appointed by the British) induced Hitler to exterminate the Jews.[35] Netanyahu repeated the claim again before the World Zionist Congress in 2019.[36] Historians strongly criticized Netanyahu's comments as both inaccurate and supportive of Holocaust deniers by exculpating Hitler and the Nazis for designing and implementing the Holocaust. The statement coincided with a wave of violent unrest and Israeli-Palestinian tensions. "Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews," Netanyahu told the group. "And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked. He said, 'Burn them.'"[35] No documentation exists for this conversation taking place and it's rejected by Israeli historians.[37][38][39]

Nevertheless, as CNN reported, Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, refused to shirk her country's responsibility:

One person who isn't buying the idea that anyone outside Germany — including a Muslim leader from Jerusalem — was responsible for the Holocaust is that country's current chancellor.
"We don't see any reason to change our view of history, particularly on this issue," Chancellor Angela Merkel said while standing alongside Netanyahu. "We abide by our responsibility, in Germany, for the Holocaust."[40]

CNN also reported that, "[t]here's no video or audio, not even a transcript… of the conversation between Hitler and Husseini." Further, Netanyahu's statements "spurred criticism in Israel and the Palestinian territories, with some claiming that Netanyahu had effectively absolved Hitler of the Holocaust's most gruesome, deplorable aspect and instead blamed Husseini…"

Let us be blunt: we can scarcely comprehend why the first (and to date, only) Israel-native leader of the only Jewish majority state in the world downplayed the Nazis' role in the Holocaust while insisting that the true idea for the genocide was from an Arab, especially when Nazism's ideology held Semites (including Arabs in this instance) to be racially inferior, making it further questionable why an Aryan supremacist would need to take advice from someone he considered of a lower standing. This accusation grows even more bizarre when one notes that Netanyahu's statement overlooks that Jews weren't the only victims of the Nazis' eliminationist views and policies, which were already being implemented when Hitler met with the Mufti. About 11 million people — 6 million Jews and 5 million so-called "Gypsies", Communists, Soviet citizens, Poles, Freemasons, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, the disabled, and various other groups — were all targeted for elimination.[41] Hitler's decree to "euthanize" the disabled considered "unworthy of life" dates to 1 September 1939, and forced sterilization was going on since well before that.[42] However -- and Netanyahu's anti-Arab propaganda notwithstanding -- while Husseini did not induce Hitler to exterminate the Jews, and had no responsibility for the Holocaust whatsoever (historian Raul Hilberg devotes only one sentence to Husseini in his 1,000+ magisterial work on the bureaucratic, brutal efficiency of the Nazi killing machine), both CIA and Army files establish that the Allies considered Husseini a war criminal who fled to Berlin where he collaborated with the Nazis and recruited Bosnian Muslims to fight for the Nazi side.[43]

Other stuff[edit]

Otherwise, his policies are firmly center-right and align with the Conservative Party, to name an example. Many of his partners in the coalition are even more extreme than him, with ultra conservative Naftali Bennett (think a Jewish Ted Cruz) and ultra-nationalist Avigdor Lieberman (who wanted to strip Israeli citizens of the right to vote if they didn't swear allegiance to the country) particularly standing out.

Relationship with the United States[edit]

Netanyahu chats with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, 2012.
A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.
George Washington, 1796 Farewell Address (nothing new under the sun)

Netanyahu's behavior is the result of America taking the brakes off and long having allowed Israel to do as she wants. At this point, the U.S. has lost the ability to rein in Israel even for the sake of America's best interests. His personal dislike for Barack Obama is well-documented and largely mutual; despite Obama providing Israel with the Iron Dome, the most comprehensive anti-missile defense system in history, Netanyahu continued to badmouth then President Obama for his entire tenure in the White House on the basis of his somehow not being pro-Israeli enough. He supported Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012, and was reportedly pissed off when Obama won re-election.[44]

Back in 2012, when Obama was making secret negotiations with Iran, Netanyahu threatened to attack Iran at last… and immediately backed off when Obama flatly stated that he would never support a unilateral Israeli attack on Iranian soil. Netanyahu relishes the sheer adoration of the Republican Party, to the point where he openly sides with the Republicans against Obama; John Boehner invited Netanyahu to make a speech in Congress on the month he was running for re-election, which angered Obama to the point where he boycotted the speech along with several other Democrats including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. He spied on the Iranian-US-EU negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program and disseminated false information to both Israeli lawmakers and American Congressmen, as a way to drum up opposition to a nuclear deal; he even claimed that a deal would strengthen Iran's capacity to build nukes, which is patently false. Obama had him barred from the negotiations, which later led to his speech to Congress.[45]

His vehement opposition to a Palestinian state,[46][47] despite pretending that he was in favor of a two-state solution (that largely meant giving more land to Israel), led the Obama White House to finally play hardball more publicly; for a time they even considered backing a UN resolution on the recognition of a Palestinian state. During the 2015 elections, Netanyahu pandered to racist fears about the supposed hordes of Arab-Israelis heading to the polls, and flatly revealed that he never wants a Palestinian state to ever exist in what he holds is the "God-given" land of the Jews. He asserted that support of a Palestinian state is tantamount to yielding territory for radical Islamic terrorists to attack Israel. How much has he pissed off the Americans? The White House declassified documents that detail Israel's nuclear program.[48] Then, at the U.N, America abstained on Security Council Resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal, causing the measure to pass.

Netanyahu and his aides, however, are terrible at reading the American public, preferring to listen to neoconservative boot-lickers and the always-wrong Christian Zionists. Israel's tone deafness is evidenced by their delusion in thinking that Romney would win the 2012 election and in Netanyahu's absolute conviction that he could threaten war with Iran to divide Jewish Democrats with a loyalty test.[49] What he doesn't understand is that several American billionaires, like Sheldon Adelson[note 5] -- and even a Democratic one like Haim Saban -- and others who are in a position to finance, among other things, the annexation of Gaza, constitute a significant portion of the "Israel-First" lobby. Consensus is one thing. Smoke-filled backs rooms where rich guys work out deals together, and the general population isn't consulted, is quite another.[50][51]

The Trump years[edit]

Netanyahu shares a moment with US President Donald Trump in 2017.
I hear penguins support Israel. They have no difficulty recognizing that some things are black and white.
—A strange Twitter post from Netanyahu in 2017.[52]

Donald Trump, for all his slobbering overtures about giving Israel and its most vehement amoral American supporters everything they wanted during his 2016 presidential election campaign, managed to garner condemnation from Netanyahu before he even entered office. This came about, among other reasons, due to his prejudiced remarks about Muslims.

In fact, Trump's general dumbassery has frustrated even Mossad. When the Israelis gave intelligence on Daesh to Washington, Trump blurted out the intel to Russia, an ally of Iran, and provoked harsh condemnation from Israeli intelligence sources who vowed never to share intel with the United States as a result.

When Trump was visiting Israel, he, without prompt, insisted that providing declassified information to Russia was within his right as President. This happened before the Israeli government was even allowed to comment on the incident, and Netanyahu, barely holding together a nervous smile, tried and failed to force Trump to shut his mouth.[citation needed]

The embarrassments didn't stop there. When Trump refused to condemn Neo-Nazis who killed protesters, Netanyahu refused to respond,[53] and a minister he appointed said preserving ties with the American President is more important than denouncing Nazis. This led to relentless condemnation within Israel itself; many could not believe that the first Israeli-born Jewish Prime Minister would dare to value the politics of the American President more than the history of his people.[54] You wanted a Republican President, Bibi. You got him.

On April 30, 2018, shortly before Trump's deadline for deciding to opt out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran,[55] Netanyahu made a presentation featuring 55,000 pages of Tehran-sourced documents on Project Ahmad, Iran's military nuclear program of 1999-2003.[56] When the data appears on WikiLeaks, we will be able to assess its relevance.

On the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the modern state of Israel, President Trump moved the USA embassy to Jerusalem.[57]

Sterilizing black Jews[edit]

In 2013, it was revealed that Ethiopian Jews were given mandatory birth control injections, namely the long-acting contraceptive Depo-Provera, without their knowledge or consent under Netanyahu's government. This effectively means Netanyahu was temporarily sterilizing Ethiopians who were looking to live in Israel. The health minister admitted as much and immediately changed course as soon as criticism came after the report was made known.[58][59][60]

Apartheid[edit]

Israeli troops search a Palestinian civilian in Tel Rumaida, 2012.

Netanyahu passed a bill in the Knesset that changed Israeli law, meaning that the country is now identified as a Jewish nation-state, where the Jewish people specifically may self-determinate, while downgrading the Arabic language from official status to special status. On top of that, it legally endorses the use of illegal settlements on Palestinian land under the auspices of expanding the Jewish community. This caused many within Israel itself to accuse Netanyahu's bill of apartheid and of Israel from officially codifying their mistreatment of Arabs into law.[61][62] Israeli attorneys argue "the legislation entrenches the identity of the State of Israel as a state for the Jewish people," while "excluding the Palestinian population from the same definition of sovereignty."[63]

Gays not welcome in the Jewish land[edit]

Netanyahu promised to pass a surrogacy law allowing gay Israelis to adopt custody of children. He voted against that very same bill, sparking outrage and protests from gay Israelis all over Tel Aviv.[64]

Favorable to fascism and soft on antisemitism[edit]

Netanyahu is known for public support of strongmen who have an incredibly checkered history on antisemitism and engage in fascist policies themselves. He considers himself to be a personal friend of Vladimir Putin, and covered for Putin's war of aggression against Ukraine.[65] Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines, favorably compared himself to Hitler as reason enough for why he should kill three million drug users (and curiously lowered the actual number of Jews killed by Hitler),[66] and was still invited to visit Israel by Netanyahu, who mentioned nothing about Duterte's Hitler remarks (he only apologized after receiving public backlash).[67] Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary, praised Nazi collaborator Miklós Horthy, Hungary’s Second World War era ruler, who introduced antisemitic laws and collaborated with the Nazis; and Netanyahu still had the gall to call Orban a "true friend" who "defends" Israel.[68] In what can only be described as a shameful display, the leader of the Jewish state "signed an agreement with Poland late last month that absolves Poland of its role in the extermination of its Jewish population during World War II."[69] Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in the world, had to personally rebuff the Prime Minister for this.[70][71][72] Netanyahu himself, in one of the weakest backoffs ever recorded, made an appeal to ignorance by claiming he will need to "listen to historians" more."[73] This in addition to his own strange comments downplaying Hitler's role in the Holocaust[39] and his refusal to criticize Trump's "very fine people" comments on the Neo-Nazis of Charlottesville.[74][75]

2019-2021 Israeli political crisis[edit]

Anti-Netanyahu protesters outside his official residence, 2020.

Corruption investigation[edit]

It took several years and an entire administration's length, but Netanyahu finally was booted out of power by June 2021. The first salvos actually began in 2017, when it was first reported that Netanyahu was subject to a corruption investigation and that he may be indicted for his conduct. There are two cases: Case 1000, where Netanyahu took illegal favors from businessmen, and Case 2000, which involves alleged attempts to strike a deal with the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronot newspaper group, Arnon Mozes, to promote legislation to weaken Yedioth's main competitor, Israel Hayom, in exchange for more favorable coverage of Netanyahu.

On 3 August 2017, Israeli police confirmed for the first time that Netanyahu was suspected of crimes involving fraud, breach of trust, and bribes in both Cases 1000 and 2000.[76] The next day, the Prime Minister's very own former chief of staff, Ari Harow, had signed a deal with prosecutors to testify against Netanyahu in both cases. Next year, on 13 February 2018, Israeli police recommended that Netanyahu be charged with corruption. According to a police statement, sufficient evidence exists to indict the prime minister on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust in the two cases. When Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert was reported to be the object of an investigation, he resigned and cited that he did not wish to stay as prime minister while being investigated. Netanyahu, on the other and, responded that the allegations were baseless and defiantly said he would continue as prime minister.[77]

On 28 February 2019, the Israeli attorney general announced his intent to file indictments against Netanyahu on bribe and fraud charges in three different cases.[78] Netanyahu was formally indicted on 21 November 2019.[79][80] He is the first sitting prime minister in Israel's history to be charged with a crime.[81] On 23 November 2019, it was announced that Netanyahu, in compliance with legal precedent set by the Israeli Supreme Court in 1993, would relinquish his agriculture, health, social affairs and diaspora affairs portfolios. He was officially charged on 28 January 2020, but his trial on March of 2020 was delayed to 24 May 2020 due to COVID.[82]

If Netanyahu gets convicted, he could face up to 10 years in prison for bribery and a maximum of three years for fraud and breach of trust, for a total of 13 years in prison. Olmert already served time in jail after his corruption trial ended, so it is not unlikely for the same fate to befall Netanyahu. To the surprise of nobody, Netanyahu accused law enforcement and the media of a “witch hunt” to depose him.[83]

COVID response and growing authoritarianism[edit]

Netanyahu and the US ambassador with their wives at the Western Wall, 2020.

It is not a coincidence that Netanyahu's corruption investigation turned him rabid, caring only for maintaining power, because if he were to lose power, he would be put on trial for his crimes. Netanyahu used the pandemic as an excuse to erode Israeli democracy. In March 2020, Netanyahu's Likud Party took the extraordinary action of shutting down the Knesset for a few days in order to prevent a vote to appoint a new Knesset Speaker of another party.[84] Even with the Knesset shut down, the Netanyahu administration continued business as usual but this time without any parliamentary oversight.

Under his stewardship, Netanyahu systematically eroded Israeli democracy by allowing his far-right government to assault liberal institutions by declaring Israel to be a Jewish state, bribing the media for favorable coverage, and attempting to make Netanyahu immune from any kind of prosecution.[85]

As with other right wing governments, Netanyahu recklessly opened the economy back up and lifted some lockdown restrictions, which only served to make everyone vulnerable to the second wave not too long after. Protests erupted with many Israelis expressing their dissatisfaction with how Netanyahu handled the pandemic. But the man would never pass up an opportunity to screw his opposition over. On 30 September, Israel's parliament passed a law limiting demonstrations, which is clearly intended to curb protests against Netanyahu over alleged corruption and his mismanagement of the coronavirus crisis. The law prohibits Israelis from holding large gatherings more than one kilometre (5⁄8 mile) from their residences, and Netanyahu claims this was only done to stop COVID-19 infections. Surprise, surprise, another incident of Netanyahu using COVID as an excuse to dismantle democracy.[86]

On 3 October, the opposite effect happened, as several protests broke out throughout Israel to protest Netanyahu's limiting of demonstrations during the lockdown with numbers up to 130,000 people taking part in the protests that day. Arab communities lagged in vaccinations, despite widespread vaccine availability. The lag was attributed to widespread distrust of the government, and to a lack of Arabic-language outreach and education about the vaccine's safety.[87]

Collapse of his coalition[edit]

In 2018, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a secular nationalist, had opposed a draft law (supported by the ultra-Orthodox parties) which would allow full-time Torah students exemptions from serving in the IDF. This means Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews would not be drafted in the military, an exemption Lieberman did not support.[88] This almost destroyed the coalition agreement Netanyahu headed, as his party needed other far-right and right-wing parties to form a government. But the last-minute compromise, with Netanyahu allowing a free vote on the Haredi conscription bill and the state budget, that kept the coalition from being dissolved didn't matter in the end.[89] Avigdor Lieberman left the government in protest of the ceasefire with Hamas over Gaza,[90][91] and Naftali Bennett left the government because Netanyahu refused to give him Lieberman's former Defense Ministry post.[92] Once again, Netanyahu narrowly avoided another government collapse by offering a compromise, which was to make Bennett education minister,[93] but once again, it would not last. Continued arguments over the Haredi's military service and further dysfunction caused parliament to dissolve and early elections to be called for 9 April 2019, seven months sooner.[94]

Netanyahu's Likud tied with Blue and White alliance of Benny Gantz, his former chief of staff, with both winning 35 seats. The balance of power was held by smaller parties, with a majority being right-wing and religious parties that had previously sat in coalition with Likud. Gantz conceded, paving the way for Netanyahu to begin coalition talks again.[95] The leaders of all the parties who won seats in the Knesset met with President Reuven Rivlin to recommend a designated person to form a government. Netanyahu received recommendations from leaders representing 65 seats in the Knesset, whereas Gantz received recommendations from leaders representing only 45 seats in the Knesset. Leaders of the two Arab parties, representing 10 seats in the Knesset, declined to make any recommendation. Based on the recommendations he received, Rivlin designated Netanyahu to form the next governing coalition.[96] But after a month of negotiations, Netanyahu failed to form a government, which led to a 74 to 45 vote in the Knesset in favour of dispersing just after midnight on 29 May 2019. The new election was scheduled for 17 September 2019.

This was the first time an incumbent prime minister failed to form a government after an election,[97] and it was the first time the Knesset voted to dissolve itself before a government had been formed, as they issued the vote to prevent Benny Gantz from becoming prime minister-designate.[98] Netanyahu personally and specifically pushed for the Knesset to dissolve before President Rivlin even had a chance to talk to Gantz, even after Rivlin gave Netanyahu a two-week extension on his (failed) forming of a government.[99]

Israeli security forces suppress anti-Netanyahu protesters suppressed with a blue-dyed water cannon, 2020.

Once again, Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman could not agree on the passage of a draft law relating to Haredi Jews.[100] Lieberman's law would remove the current exemption of yeshiva students from conscription.[101] The Haredi parties in Netanyahu's coalition oppose the law and Netanyahu needed both Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu and the Haredi parties in order to have enough seats for a majority.[102] Gantz had officially ruled out serving with Likud if Netanyahu was still leader of the party.[103] Out of desperation, Netanyahu approached Labor about the possibility of their support, but they rejected the offer. Meanwhile, Netanyahu's legal troubles overshadowed further possible coalition negotiations, with Blue and White refusing to work with him due to those circumstances. The new elections also mean Netanyahu's proposed immunity law could not proceed as he intended.[104] Netanyahu convinced the centrist Kulanu party to dissolve and join Likud,[105] but it wasn't enough, as Gantz's Blue and White Party won a plurality, 33 seats to Likud's 32, giving him the mandate to form a government as authorized by President Rivlin.[106][107]

Due to some confusion, Netanyahu ended up leading Gantz in tallied recommendations by a 55 to 54 margin, with eight delegates from Yisrael Beiteinu and three delegates from Balad choosing not to recommend either. On 25 September, Rivlin selected Netanyahu to try to form thirty-fifth government of Israel, but with a catch: Rivlin retains the mandate to nominate another candidate if Netanyahu failed to form a government again. And predictably, Netanyahu failed once again to form a government because of Lieberman refusing to bend to his demands. Gideon Sa'ar, Netanyahu's old interior minister, attempted to challenge Netanyahu in a leadership election,[108] but Netanyahu outright refused to hold one, rendering Sa'ar's attempt moot.[109] This would lead to huge ramifications in the near future, as you will soon see.

Rivlin gave the mandate over to Gantz, who had a day to form a government of his own, but he also failed and returned the mandate on 21 November. Following this, a period of 21 days began in which any Knesset member can lead the government if they submit 61 signatures to the president. But it never happened. Not a single member of the Knesset could form a government at all by December 11, and so the Knesset once again voted to dissolve itself, prolonging this political crisis of government another year.

On March 2020, right on the cusp of a global pandemic, Netanyahu's Likud took 36 seats to Gantz's 33, allowing him to once again try to form a government. What happened instead was Gantz went back on his word.[110] He campaigned on never serving on a coalition government with Netanyahu in charge of Likud due to his corruption investigation, but now, again, neither Netanyahu nor Gantz could muster the 61-seat majority needed to form a government. So, Gantz ended the stalemate by agreeing to form a coalition with Netanyahu, breaking his campaign promise, the only reason anyone ever voted for his party, which suffered heavily in opinion polls and approval or favorability ratings due to the U-turn. Gantz claimed COVID forced his hand to go against his vow. Under the terms of the agreement, the premiership would rotate between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, with Gantz given the new position of Alternate Prime Minister until November 2021.[111]

But before we continue, here's some more juicy tea, just to show you exactly how badly Netanyahu fucked all this up for himself. Yair Lapid, a centrist author, formed his own party, Yesh Atid, all the way back in 2012, becoming the second-largest party against Likud in 2013. Netanyahu welcomed Yesh Atid into his coalition after the results, naming Lapid finance minister on March 2013. But Netanyahu fired him and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni from their posts, saying "I will no longer tolerate an opposition within the government." This pissed Yesh Atid off, which called his firing of Lapid "cowardly," and Yesh Atid would later form an agreement with Benny Gantz's Israel Resistance Party and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon's Telem party. Ya'alon, an extremist who called Palestinians a "cancer,"[112] opposes Iran and the nuclear deal, and admitted illegal settlements would continue after Obama's presidency,[113] resigned as defense minister because of "moral" and "professional" disagreements with Netanyahu, warning that "extreme and dangerous elements have taken over Israel and the Likud Party."[114] Lapid and Ya'alon were two-thirds the reason Gantz's Blue and White alliance became a thing. Once Gantz broke his vow and joined Netanyahu as Alternate Prime Minister, Lapid and Ya'alon left the alliance in disgust.

As expected, Netanyahu would not live up to the agreement with Gantz. Israeli law stipulates that if the 2020 state budget was not passed by 23 December 2020, the Knesset would be dissolved, and elections would be held by 23 March 2021. Guess what happened. The state budget was not passed, the Knesset was dissolved, and elections were scheduled 90 days later on March 2021, an unprecedented fourth election in two years.[115]

Loss of power[edit]

Gideon Sa'ar, the man who tried to challenge Netanyahu for Likud leadership, left Likud and formed his own New Hope party, with six members, giving the opposition yet another party arrayed against Netanyahu, however small. Sa'ar became another in a long line of people who were screwed over by Netanyahu in some way and sought payback, joining the likes of Lieberman (who always wanted to be prime minister and chose to screw him over in turn), Bennett (who was refused his preferred cabinet ministry), Lapid (fired for criticizing him), Ya'alon (resigned because of serious moral and professional disagreements), even Gantz himself, whose chance at becoming prime minister was destroyed after Netanyahu refused to pass the state budget in 2020. Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party had 7 members, Bennett's Yamina party also had 7 (four more than the last election), and Gantz's Blue and White party had 8 (down six from the last election), while Lapid's Yesh Atid had 17 members, making them second largest once again.

Ra'am, an Arab Islamist party led by Mansour Abbas, held kingmaker status, the first time an Arab party ever had that role in Israeli history. Abbas attracted massive media attention from Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, to see who he would form a government with. With the largest party in parliament, Netanyahu was given the mandate once again to form a government, but in the month he was supposed to, he yet again failed to form a government,[116] so Rivlin gave the mandate over to Lapid,[117] who began talks with Bennett.[118] Abbas froze talks with Bennett and Lapid due to Netanyahu's assaults in Gaza after the Al Aqsa Mosque was attacked by Israeli forces.[119] Launching another war in Gaza right as it looked like he was about to lose power is vintage Bibi. Even as Netanyahu officially entered talks with Abbas, many of his supporters, including a far-right rabbi, all but called Abbas a traitor and a terrorist, warning Netanyahu never to give Arabs or Muslims any kind of seat in power.

This proved fatal. Abbas ended talks with Netanyahu, citing continued personal character assassination from Netanyahu's supporters, and Abbas resumed talks with Lapid and Bennett. Just two hours before the deadline, Lapid informed Rivlin that he had the numbers to form a government,[120] and a week later, Bennett formally agreed to join the coalition with Lapid and Abbas.[121] As stipulated in their agreement, Naftali Bennett would become Prime Minister, with Yair Lapid as Alternate Prime Minister in a rotation government; Bennett would be prime minister until Lapid gets the role on 27 August 2023. As per the agreement, Mansour Abbas became deputy minister for Arab Affairs, Avigdor Lieberman became finance minister, Benny Gantz would become defense minister, and Gideon Sa'ar would become justice minister, with Gantz and Sa'ar also serving as deputy prime ministers in case something were to happen to both Bennett and Lapid.[122]

Finally, on June 13th, 2021, Bennett was sworn in as Prime Minister of Israel, finally knocking Netanyahu off his seat of power after twelve long years. He once again served as leader of the opposition, with Likud as the largest party in the Knesset.[123][124] Purely out of spite,[125] Netanyahu voted down Bennett's bill to deny Palestinian spouses official status, now showing "no interest in ideology but only in toppling the coalition with childish harassment."[126] His goal was simple: make government ungovernable.[127]

Return to power[edit]

"This government is legal but clearly illegitimate because of its plan to crush Israeli democracy... we are witnessing a coup here. This is an assassination of the Declaration of Independence,Wikipedia and democracy must defend itself."
—Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud BarakWikipedia, on Netanyahu's judicial reforms[128]

Mainstreaming Israeli fascism[edit]

Sadly, he succeeded, and immediately formed what everyone has called "the most right wing government in Israeli history," consisting of ultranationalist, ultraconservative, hyper-jingoistic, hyper-militant, pro-apartheid fascist bloodletters who've made it clear they can't wait to crush everyone they deem undesirable.[129] [130] [131] [132] By January 2023, Netanyahu - who remained leader of the opposition - returned to government by throwing his lot in with borderline if not outright fascist Israeli parties who are so reactionary and so extreme, multiple Israeli journalists genuinely began to feel Israeli democracy was on life support. Netanyahu's new coalition government, the "most right wing" in Israeli history, consists of "once-fringe ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious parties" whose leaders include Itamar Ben-Gvir, who was convicted in 2007 for being a literal fucking terrorist, as head of the goddamn police.[133] [134] Ben-Gvir openly campaigned on a plan to expel “disloyal” Israeli citizens, has vowed to use his security ministry post to create “order” in the face of what the right has said is a grave internal security crisis in Arab communities inside Israel, and personally advocated for more power to his post specifically to carry this out. Through appointments like this, Netanyahu is ensuring legislation is passed "altering the judiciary," which could "nullify corruption cases that could put him behind bars." Among the changes touted by his Likud party and its partners would be a law "giving the Knesset powers to override supreme court decisions." This could mean that "victims of possible police abuses would have no protection."[135] Other ministers include Avi Maoz,Wikipedia a rabidly anti-gay Israeli, who was put in charge of national education system and appointed a deputy minister in charge of “Jewish identity”; [136] and Bezalel SmotrichWikipedia, leader of the "Religious Zionist Party" and a self-described "fascist homophobe",[137] who was made the finance minister. Smotrich in the past openly advocated for theocracy[138], and in March 2023 drew widespread condemnation for first advocating that the Palestinian village of HuwaraWikipedia needed "to be wiped out",[139] and then claiming that there was "no such thing" as a Palestinian people.[140] Another partner is United Torah Judaism, who are connected to a sex cult[141] and defending pedophiles.[142]

Destroying Israel's courts[edit]

Netanyahu, who desperately does not want to be in jail for corruption, formed an alliance with the extreme right because he's that scared of losing power and getting thrown in jail for crimes he committed. It's a devil's bargain: if the right wing agrees to stop the trial from jailing Netanyahu, he will push for all their pet policies in favor of deepening apartheid. The agreement includes a plan to carry out "judicial reform" – a euphemism for "weakening the supreme court and other checks and balances," as well as calling for restrictive definition of who is a Jew – and thus eligible for automatic citizenship under Israel’s law of return. [143] [144] [145]

Democratic backsliding[edit]

Needless to say, this "legal reform" (read: destruction of Israel's independent judiciary) was widely detested by the more secular, more middle-class, and more AshekenaziWikipedia sect of Jews in Israel, in contrast to the HarediWikipedia Jews which Netanyahu's coalition represented. While tensions between these sects existed before Netanyahu's attempted "judicial dictatorship", the sudden widespread feeling that Israel's successful secular democracy itself was being threatened led to widespread, months-long protests (involving hundreds of thousands of people in some cases)[146] against the judicial overhaul, including protests from the tech sector (one of Israel's most successful primary exports), the army, and other senior figures in Israel's security, high-tech, financial, and academic fields.[147][148] In fact, multiple reservists of the Israel Defence Force (including, for instance, 37 pilots of a 40 man Israeli Air Force fighter jet squadron) announced that they would simply refuse to serve under Netanyahu's new judiciary, roiling the military and pissing off Likud politicians.[149][150] Similar to the protests regarding the theocratic and authoritarian encroachments of the Republican party in the United States, "handmaids" from the dystopian science fiction novel The Handmaid's Tale became a prominent protest symbol, reflecting the fear that Israel's secular, democratic society was being transformed by Netanyahu into a theocratic, patriarchal, and totalitarian one.[151][152] The radical judicial overhaul spooked investors and others in the business community, who (with very good reason) worried that this would cause severe financial instability, with the impact towards the high tech sector in particular (eg a potential brain drain) being a key concern.[146][153][154]

Netanyahu's stance remained defiant: in March 2023 he not only refused to budge from his plans (rejecting any compromise),[155] but (with the help of his coalition) enacted a law protecting Netanyahu by limiting conditions in which he could be ruled as unfit for office.[148] In late March 2023, the Minister of Defense Yoav GallantWikipedia called for a halt on changes to the judiciary, saying the deep split caused by the bitter dispute posed a danger to the country.[156] Netanyahu responded by firing him, sparking even more protests (by one estimate, over 600,000 in number),[157] as well as a massive strike by multiple unions (including Israel's largest trade union group HistadrutWikipedia) that halted flights, forced multiple businesses to temporarily shutter, and effectively ground the country to a halt.[158][159][160][161]

Due to the massive protests, Netanyahu postponed voting on the judicial overhaul package until after the 2023 Passover holiday. However, as a "consolation prize" to his hard-right coalition, Ben-Gvir was promised authority over a new "national guard", something Ben-Gvir had long desired.[162] Of the later move, critics slammed Netanyahu's decision, worrying that this was potentially creating an unchecked "private militia" for a radical "Kahanist" that would be used solely for "(Ben-Gvir's) political needs", and in effect erode Israel's democracy and rule of law even further.[163][164][165]

Notes[edit]

  1. He passed a law in 2018 that explicitly said only the Jewish people have the right to self-determination in the nation-state of Israel and demoted Arabic as an official language.
  2. He's essentially Likud's Dick Cheney, although he is at least no chickenhawk as the Sith Lord former Vice President is. He took part in this hostage freeing missionWikipedia among others. One of his commanders was Ehud Barak.
  3. Ironically, it seems that Yigal Amir, besides killing Rabin, will be the one to kill Zionism, since he kicked it down this path.
  4. Jerusalem is the de facto seat of government and capital of Israel, though the international recognition of this fact is a decidedly messy issue with many embassies in Tel Aviv mostly for that reason
  5. Remember, Shelly is even richer and crazier than Donald Trump. He wants to nuke Iran, and also wishes he had served in the Israeli military instead of the U.S. Army.

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  131. [ https://www.npr.org/2022/12/25/1145471819/israel-is-set-to-swear-in-the-most-right-wing-government-in-the-countrys-history "Israel is set to swear in the most right-wing government in the country's history," Daniel Estrin, NPR]
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  141. [1]
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