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There’s something Shakespearean about Benjamin Netanyahu’s downfall.
As in a scene from “Julius Caesar,” who was assassinated by Roman senators, Netanyahu was deposed by his former underlings, the leaders of the three right-wing events which have joined the brand new authorities – Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Lieberman and Gideon Sa’ar, all of whom as soon as labored for Netanyahu.
If two of those males had remained loyal to Netanyahu, as that they had been for years, then he would nonetheless be in energy right this moment.
As an alternative, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has lastly been dethroned. “King Bibi,” as his devoted supporters hail him, dominated Israel for a complete of 15 years, together with a brief stint within the Nineteen Nineties. He returned to energy in 2009, and for the previous 12 years he dominated Israeli politics and got here to personify Israel within the eyes of the world.
However whereas private grudges and political rivalries largely because of Netanyahu’s preening character have little doubt performed a key function in his ouster, they don’t absolutely account for the unyielding opposition he has engendered.
It’s not merely a results of particular person grievances and political ambitions that Netanyahu can not appease or politically purchase off his rivals. Neither is it simply because they not consider any of his guarantees. As a scholar of Israeli politics, I feel that it is usually, even primarily, as a result of Netanyahu has come to be seen as a hazard to Israeli democracy itself, simply as former President Donald Trump was in the USA.
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Turning into a demagogue
In recent times, significantly since he was indicted on corruption fees in a number of circumstances involving bribery, fraud and breach of belief, Netanyahu has change into more and more autocratic.
Throughout a interval when democracies world wide have been challenged by “authoritarian populists” resembling Trump, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Netanyahu has eagerly joined this world membership of intolerant strongmen and publicly embraced these controversial leaders.
Domestically, he adopted a lot of their techniques, attempting to undermine the independence of the judiciary, neuter regulators, management or muzzle the media and use the facility of patronage to reward loyalists and punish critics.
Netanyahu has additionally often employed populist rhetoric, railing towards the supposedly leftist elite, the “deep state” and the “faux information” media, all of whom he has alleged are conspiring towards him.
He has portrayed himself because the sufferer of sinister, shadowy and highly effective teams who’re the enemies of the “individuals.” In traditional populist vogue, Netanyahu has claimed that solely he represents the “individuals,” particularly, Israeli Jews, since Arab residents of Israel are solid as harmful Others. He demonizes his political opponents as threats to the nation, even traitors.
By deftly manipulating the fears and prejudices of the Israeli public, Netanyahu grew to become, basically, a demagogue.
Private turns into political
The aim of Netanyahu’s assault on the pillars of Israeli democracy was easy: for him to stay in energy and keep out of jail.
To attain this, he was prepared to delegitimize not solely his political opponents, but in addition state establishments just like the Supreme Courtroom, the lawyer common’s workplace and the police.
In a determined try and evade his corruption trial for bribery and fraud and a doable prolonged jail sentence, Netanyahu sought to realize immunity from prosecution as a sitting prime minister whereas denying he was doing so.
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His cussed refusal to resign, even after his felony trial started – the primary time a sitting Israeli prime minister was within the dock – gave the impression to be pushed by his want to make use of his place as prime minister to realize authorized immunity or no less than intimidate the attorneys and judges he would possibly face, and persuade the general public that he was being persecuted.
It wasn’t solely his political survival and private freedom, nevertheless, that motivated Netanyahu. He appears to sincerely consider that Israel can be endangered with out his management. His lengthy tenure in energy apparently satisfied him that solely he can steer the ship of state, particularly given the treacherous waters it should navigate.
“Attempt to harm as little as doable of the magnificent financial system we’re handing over to you, in order that we will repair it as quick as doable after we return,” he stated as energy was handed over to the coalition.
Like different longtime leaders, Netanyahu got here to equate his personal private and political pursuits with these of Israel. What was good for him was good for Israel; what harmed him, harmed Israel. Netanyahu additionally satisfied his supporters of this equation, simply as a lot of his critics grew to become satisfied that the alternative was true.
Thus, Netanyahu managed to divide Israelis into two antagonistic camps: pro-Netanyahu versus anti-Netanyahu. This division changed the standard left-right ideological divide that had dominated Israeli politics for many years – and which is why the brand new authorities spans the ideological spectrum.
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Surviving with out Netanyahu
It’s untimely to put in writing Netanyahu’s political obituary – he stays the chief of Likud, by far the most important celebration within the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. He has vowed to carry down the newly put in “change authorities” and swiftly return to energy.
He may effectively accomplish this process given his Machiavellian political abilities and the inherent fragility of Israel’s new governing coalition, which consists of no fewer than eight completely different events ranging throughout the political spectrum. Because it depends upon a razor-thin parliamentary majority of 61 of the 120 Knesset seats, the federal government can be extraordinarily susceptible to Netanyahu’s relentless efforts to topple it.
However nevertheless short-lived Israel’s fledgling authorities seems to be, its mere formation is just not solely one thing of a political miracle – bringing collectively non secular and secular ultranationalist right-wingers, liberal centrists, secular leftists and Arab Islamists – but in addition a shocking repudiation of Netanyahu.
Finally, the rule of legislation and democratic course of in Israel have survived Netanyahu’s assaults. A peaceable transition of energy has occurred, regardless of indignant protests and violent threats towards among the members of the incoming authorities.
The mere proven fact that Israel has a brand new prime minister will now show to many Israelis that the nation can survive with out Netanyahu’s management. Even when the brand new authorities accomplishes little or no, this alone can be an essential achievement.
By rejecting Netanyahu’s demagoguery, Prime Minister Bennett also can start to heal among the divisiveness that Netanyahu stoked and exploited, even when his authorities continues a lot of Netanyahu’s insurance policies, as appears possible. This, if nothing else, would be the “change” it guarantees.
Dov Waxman doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.