The Case for, and against, Benjamin Netanyahu

On Tuesday, Israelis will vote in national elections for the fourth time since 2019. Although a large number of parties are running, connected by a web of mergers, splits, and potential coalition agreements, the real question is this: should Benjamin Netanyahu, in power for eleven years, retain the premiership? Benny Avni weighs the pros and cons, beginning with the cons:

Can a man lead a country while facing serious court cases against him? Netanyahu has been indicted in three cases involving alleged bribery, fraud. and breach of trust. Wouldn’t he be more concerned with staying out of jail than with the welfare and safety of Israeli citizens?

To . . . that, add Netanyahu’s new political bedfellows. As the election neared, the prime minister orchestrated a unity deal between two far-right factions. Their new party, Otzma Yehudit (“Jewish might”), is led by Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir, and is widely considered a scion of the [party founded by] the late Meir Kahane, who was assassinated in New York in 1990. . . . Giving a political hekhsher to a faction considered too odious for most Israelis, though, looks too cynical for even some of Netanyahu’s most avid supporters.

So yes, it’s difficult to make a case for a man who clings to power while facing allegations that could land him in prison. Netanyahu would stop at nothing, including alliances with Israel’s worst elements, to achieve that goal. Why would anyone even consider voting for him?

But there are many answers to that question, writes Avni, including the relative peace and prosperity during Netanyahu’s tenure in office, the flourishing diplomatic ties with many formerly hostile or indifferent countries—especially Arab ones—and his success in securing vaccines for the coronavirus:

Bibi’s Israel has become attractive not only for its modern, easygoing lifestyle, innovation, military capabilities, and great beaches. Its economy is a magnet to investors, largely because of Netanyahu’s insistence on turning away from the rigid socialism of Israel’s founders and replacing it with a free economy boosted by a social safety net. The country’s mandatory but competitive HMO-based health-insurance system, which enabled the vaccination effort, is one example of this hybrid economic model.

By now Netanyahu’s once-revolutionary ideas have become widely accepted by mainstream politicians. His competitors rarely stray radically from his [platform of a] free economy, skepticism of Palestinian propaganda, and security-oriented style of governing. Instead, they promise Bibi-less Bibi-ism.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2021, Israeli politics

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7