Netanyahu’s Political Tightrope

Netanyahu’s hold on power has been severely eroded in the face of corruption scandals.

In the global arena, Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is navigating a complex diplomatic landscape. His policies on Gaza have attracted criticism from various corners and he finds himself in a “loss-loss situation”. If he agrees to postwar Palestinian rule in Gaza and takes tangible measures to implement it, he will alienate the far-right. If he accepts to unlawfully annex Gaza, he will forfeit the backing of the US and the world community. In this hustle and bustle of Israeli politics, Netanyahu is finding himself in a bit of a pickle and his team, the coalition government, isn’t exactly singing his praises.

His government, the most right-wing in Israeli history, is under strain. Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of security, and Bezalel Smotrich, the minister of finance, have threatened to resign and trigger fresh elections if Hamas receives any concessions from Netanyahu’s more radical coalition members. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Israelis want Netanyahu to step down, implying that he would likely lose an election if one were held soon. He is under pressure from far-right coalition members to commit his army to expanding Israel’s borders and driving out Hamas forces from Gaza. Furthermore, on May 14, Ben-Gvir advocated for the “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians from Gaza to make way for Israeli settlement. Post October 7, opposition MPs Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, former IDF commanders, joined Netanyahu’s administration on the condition that a committee be formed to strategize a withdrawal from Gaza. However, no such plan has materialized, primarily because Netanyahu’s far-right allies’ post-war plan involves the extermination of Palestinians. Netanyahu cannot openly commit to a postwar plan for Gaza that includes Palestinians. Last week, Chief Israel Defense Forces Spokesman Daniel Hagari criticized the Netanyahu for his ineffective policies on Gaza. Minister Yoav Gallant, a former commander and current Likud member, publicly rebuked him and his cabinet for failing to formulate a post-war plan for Gaza.

Alongside, the war in Gaza is causing discomfort among many Israeli citizens. Despite a history of hardline views towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, public sentiment is shifting. Protests in Tel Aviv, where thousands of Israelis have gathered to demand the release of hostages held by Hamas, exemplify this. The public opinion is divided - while some Israelis are calling for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid for Gaza, others insist that aid be withheld until Israeli captives are returned. This divergence in public opinion adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

In the international political sphere, Mr. Biden stated that it would be “just wrong” if attacks involving weaponry provided by the United States resulted in a large number of civilian casualties during a full-scale ground invasion in Rafah. If Israel proceeds with such an operation, the United States will not provide the weaponry and artillery rounds utilized in it. The Biden administration has also verified that it temporarily halted the delivery of a consignment of weaponry to Israel last week. This shipment consisted of 1,800 bombs weighing one ton each, as well as 1,700 bombs weighing 500 pounds each. The reason for this suspension was the apprehension that the Israel Defense Forces may utilize these bombs in an airstrike on Rafah.

The call for a ceasefire in this conflict has been strong, with the U.S. President himself engaging in extensive discussions with Netanyahu. Israel’s Western allies are advocating collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, the governing body of the West Bank. The goal is to facilitate the formation of a new government in Gaza which Netanyahu has publicly rejected.

Amid this volatile situation, Netanyahu’s hold on power has been severely eroded in the face of corruption scandals, doubts about how his administration handled the October 7 attack, and a drive for unpopular legislation reforms. In addition to damaging his reputation, these scandals have cast doubt on his capacity to govern the country successfully. However, there appears to be little reprieve from these problems due to the ongoing conflict. Netanyahu seems to sustain his stance so long as the Gaza conflict persists, effectively relegating these inside matters to the background. However, there are significant moral and ethical issues with this tactic. Is it acceptable to drag out a battle that is causing countless casualties and damage solely to take the focus off of home issues?

The unsolved problems are simmering beneath the surface of the war, waiting to explode when it is over. In the complex web of internal and foreign demands there are huge stakes involved, and every action he makes is closely watched. Netanyahu’s choices will influence not only his political destiny but also the future of the region as the events in Gaza play out. In the months ahead, we’ll find out if he can manage these conflicting demands or if his position will be permanently jeopardized. The complex relationship between national obligations and personal aspirations continues to influence Netanyahu’s politics, which has significant ramifications for the larger geopolitical order.

Dr. Gul.i.Ayesha Bhatti
The writer is a current affairs analyst. She can be reached at guleayeshabhatti@gmail.com

The writer is a current affairs analyst. She can be reached at guleayesha
bhatti@
gmail.com

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