Sometimes It’s Best to Just Walk Away

by Arthur Schwartzman

If Netanyahu really wants a right-wing government to lead Israel, all he need do is resign

Does Netanyahu have the integrity to step down?
Photo: Amit Shabi/POOL

Benjamin Netanyahu is at the heart and center of the previous four elections. He is also at the forefront of the formation of the government, and it’s irrelevant if he’s the one trying to piece together a coalition, or if it’s the turn of his rivals – Bibi is the topic on the negotiating table. While little can be said regarding the integrity of many of our lawmakers and party leaders, it would take but one simple action by our long-running Prime Minister to bring an end to this political stalemate – resign.

Leaders have a responsibility, or at least we expect them to act responsibly. The needs of the public should serve as a guidepost for those who enter the public arena. It is by no means an easy task, as you quickly become the object of scrutiny. You must be of exceptional character. You have to be very confident in your abilities to lead collective endeavors forward. Still, you also have to genuinely care for others, namely the people of your country, to step into the murky waters of politics.

But leaders tend to fail us quite often. From bribery to sexual misconduct or acting contrary to the values they preach in election campaigns. We become disillusioned time and again when our representatives in the Knesset betray our values – values they swore to uphold in the public assembly. We vote for them so that they will fight for the causes we advocate on our behalf. But when they instead engage in petty political games, we feel cheated.

With the Likud winning 30 seats, we can see that support for Bibi is still ample, but it is wearing thin. The fact is that giving the mandate to form a government to Netanyahu (which he has since returned after failing to do so) only helped to highlight the shortcomings of our system. With so many voters voting for right-wing parties in the State of Israel, why can’t a stable government be forged? Think about the current situation, Naftali Bennett, leader of the Yamina party, is now negotiating a deal for a rotation of the premiership alongside Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party. How many seats does Bennett have to amass such status? Seven, that’s how many (which amounts to 273,836 votes). By comparison, Lapid won 17 seats (614,112 votes) and Netanyahu 30 (1,066,892 votes). Even Shas and “Blue and White” have more power in the Knesset. How is it that a leader whose party didn’t even breach the electoral threshold in 2019 and won only a fraction of the votes in the last election is going to sit in the highest chair in Jerusalem? This is the mystery that is Israeli politics.

See: Naftali Bennett Emerges With the Keys to Bibi’s Kingdom

All of this could be avoided if one man would make the very responsible decision to step down. That man is Benjamin Netanyahu. After three dead-end efforts to form a stable government, many had hopes that it’d occur to the big man that he’s in the way, despite the public support of him. A temporary unity government was formed after the previous election, when “Blue and White” leader Benny Gantz compromised and went back on his electoral promise to never sit in a government with Netanyahu. Like the good soldier he is, Gantz took responsibility, even at risk to his own career, and did what he believed was best for Israel. But Netanyahu wasn’t one to play ball for long, and the coalition came to its highly predictable end.

Netanyahu’s recent failure to appoint an interim Minister of Justice from his own Likud party may indicate that he’s losing ground. This ministerial appointment was critical for Bibi to maintain a degree of control over his court trial. But even the spotlight on his courtroom drama could be dramatically reduced if he resigns. An honest politician would have done so long ago. The Likud has led the country successfully for many years, and Bibi isn’t the only name on that list. Perhaps it’s time to turn over the keys to someone else?

It boils down to responsibility. The cornerstone in this political contest is Netanyahu; there is no doubt about it. Today there is only one path to a right-wing government and that is if Benjamin Netanyahu is out of the picture. Currently, right-wing parties are forced to compromise with the Left for the sake of a coalition deal, and Bibi could put an end to that situation. The day the Likud will choose a different leader, all the leaders of the Right–including Gideon Sa’ar, Bennett and Avigdor Liberman–will come alongside the nationalist-Zionist parties and easily form a large right-wing coalition.

Bibi continues to hold the state hostage to his reign. The political map has changed, and a fifth election will not aid the situation in anyone’s favor. Instead, a unity government without a big right-wing party like Likud will be very easy to disrupt. All it’ll take is for Netanyahu to start pushing aggressively for far-right legislation for such a coalition to fall apart. How will that help the Israeli people?

In 2019, Netanyahu became the State of Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, surpassing David Ben-Gurion, one of the Jewish state’s founding fathers. At one point, Ben-Gurion showed tremendous character and responsibility by resigning. One of his motives for leaving was to set a personal example and draw the people after him in a pioneering enterprise to develop the Negev. Just three days after joining a desert kibbutz, he began to work the fields for 4 hours a day. We want our modern leaders to do the same, to take responsibility, to lead by example. If a right-wing government is what Netanyahu genuinely wants, all it takes is for him to politely say goodbye.

David Ben-Gurion was the best at what he did, and many top officials visited his home in the kibbutz for critical advice. Still, ultimately, he believed that the Zionist project could go on without him. Benjamin Netanyahu should do the same and have faith in his successors. They will take it from here, as they did in those times.

Israel Today Newsletter

Daily news

FREE to your inbox