Beirut, Lebanon – As families of Israeli prisoners held in Gaza walk from Tel Aviv to Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem on Saturday, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has never been less popular.
a The poll is from November 14 Netanyahu’s popularity among Israeli Jews is about 4 percent, and his opponents and traditional allies are calling on him to resign as soon as the current war ends.
“He is extremely weak, more than at any time in his political career, given that he oversaw the largest security and intelligence failure in Israel’s history,” said Khaled Elgindy, an expert on Palestinian-Israeli affairs at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. Al Jazeera. “Prime ministers have fallen for much less.”
Since winning the elections last November and forming the most right-wing government in the country’s history, Netanyahu has faced criticism. Netanyahu’s last term witnessed protests due to his attempts to implement judicial reforms. But October 7 eroded much of what remained of the support Netanyahu once enjoyed, experts say.
“I think there is a lot of dissatisfaction with his leadership of the government, even within his own party,” Zachary Lockman, an expert on Palestine and Israel at New York University, told Al Jazeera.
in Israel, 94% of the population Netanyahu’s government is believed to be at least partly responsible for the events of October 7, when Hamas militants breached the border fence and attacked southern Israel, killing 1,200 people.
A majority of Israelis believed in the days after the attack that Netanyahu should resign after the war ended — and that frustration has only grown since then. Much of the criticism directed at Netanyahu has been directed at his apparent lack of interest in releasing more than 200 prisoners held by Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza.
On Friday, Israel found the bodies of at least two prisoners. Four prisoners were released through mediation efforts led by Qatar and other countries.
But Netanyahu has so far refused to reach a larger agreement for a temporary ceasefire in exchange for the release of more prisoners. He said that he would not think about stopping the attack on Gaza until all the hostages were released. Reports indicate that Palestinian groups offered to release at least 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, but Netanyahu rejected the deal.
So far, US President Joe Biden supports Netanyahu in opposing the ceasefire, despite growing international protests rejection In the Democratic Party in the United States.
“They have the full support of the United States, but the Biden administration’s patience may run out at some point,” Lockman said. He added: “Calls for a ceasefire are increasing in the United States, but… [also] In Europe and elsewhere.”
Unrest within the party
Netanyahu may maintain Biden’s support, but his base is weakening.
Yehiel Zohar, the Likud mayor of Netivot, a town about 8.5 kilometers (5.3 miles) from Gaza, said that after the conflict ends, “there will be a large group of people in Likud that will change the status quo.” Tell The Times of Israel.
Frustration with Netanyahu is such that some are withdrawing from the Likud Party completely. Tamir Idan, head of the Sdot Negev Regional Council, tore up his Likud Party membership card on live television. He said he was frustrated by the lack of support from the Netanyahu government.
“[National Security Minister Itamar] Ben Gvir will not answer us. [Finance Minister Bezalel] Smotrich sends his aides,” Idan told The Times of Israel. “The others don’t come at all. This government is not working.”
In the media, Israel Hayom, a right-wing newspaper that often supports Netanyahu, called for “you to take responsibility and accept that the responsibility lies with you.”
The only thread connecting Netanyahu’s government appears to come from the extreme right, which has so far continued to support Netanyahu, while taking advantage of the focus on Gaza to continue its attacks in the West Bank.
“The current situation is very good for Ben Gvir and Smotrich,” El-Gindy said. “Netanyahu is fighting for his life and everyone is focused on Gaza so they can do whatever they want in the West Bank. The settlers are rampaging, the army is on the rampage, and too few people are paying attention so they can implement their extremist agenda.”
But cracks are starting to appear even there. After Netanyahu’s war cabinet agreed on Friday to allow two trucks of fuel into Gaza each day — what activists, nonprofits and others described as little more than a symbolic gesture to a population of 2.3 million — both Smotrich and Ben Gvir criticized the war policy. It moves.
Opponents are ready to pounce
Netanyahu has also gained many enemies over the years. These figures are preparing to criticize Netanyahu, but few of them have volunteered to take charge of him in the meantime. As Netanyahu’s popularity declined, one of his rivals, former Defense Minister Benny Gantz, saw his rise.
Gantz is also a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet and criticized the prime minister after October 7, when he blamed Israel’s intelligence services and military for the Hamas attack.
“He was dreaming [becoming prime minister] For a long time he portrays himself as a natural leader in the middle of the Israeli political spectrum who can unite left, right and center,” said Lukeman. Gantz is also “free from some of the many burdens that Netanyahu bears,” such as the corruption issues that the prime minister faces.
The poll conducted on November 14 asked participants: “Who is more suitable for the position of prime minister, Netanyahu or Gantz?” The current Israeli Prime Minister lost to Gantz by 22 percentage points. But it remains to be seen whether Gantz can replace Netanyahu – as he agreed to join Netanyahu’s team after October, which many others among the prime minister’s critics have rejected.
One of these opponents was Yair Lapid, the center-left opposition leader. He said on Wednesday that “another Likud prime minister” should replace Netanyahu. Lapid agrees with Netanyahu on the necessity of eradicating Hamas, although Israeli and Palestinian figures indicated the futility of the idea.
The soldier said: “It is interesting that people are starting to demand that he step down now and not after the war.” Perhaps this is a realization that the war is not going to end anytime soon. Israel has open, unclear, and perhaps unachievable goals, at least in the way it has expressed them.
The war effort costs the Israeli economy about $260 million per day According to To Bloomberg, 300 prominent Israeli and foreign economists urged Netanyahu’s government to “come to its senses immediately.” Public support against him is growing, and the international support he held early after October 7 continues to erode as the death toll in Gaza mounts.
“The war will not end with the great victory that the Israelis were led to believe,” Lukeman said. “And when that letdown happens, you know, somebody’s going to have to pay for it politically.”
But Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has made a successful comeback to the political arena before, including last year when corruption charges were already hanging over his head.
“My feeling is that this is probably fatal for him politically. “I don’t see how he can survive this politically,” the soldier said. “People are angry about October 7 and the hostages, and it was already unpopular before October 7.”
The soldier paused for a moment before adding: “But if there is anyone who can design a road, it is him.”
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