Ron Kronish

Bibi’s latest Catch 22 and  his Forever War

Crime Minister sign at protest against PM Netanyahu, May 15, 2024, wikicommons images
Crime Minister sign at protest against PM Netanyahu, May 15, 2024, wikicommons images

In a place where there are no human beings, strive to be a human being. Ethics of the Fathers 2:4

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is caught up in a new “catch-22” of his own making.  Every day, at least three times a day, he declares that the main goal of the war against Hamas is the end of Hamas rule in Gaza (as well as the destruction of Hamas militarily). How long will this take? Maybe months, maybe years, maybe it will go on forever — there seems to be no end in sight. Accordingly, many people in the media in Israel have a called it his “forever war”.

On the other hand, hundreds of thousands of people in Israel are demanding “Elections Now!” At demonstrations all over Israel every day, and especially on Saturday nights, the sane and sensible citizens of Israel—most of whom are fed up with Bibi and his extremist government—are expressing their most fervent desire that elections should be held as soon as possible!

What has been Bibi’s response?

According to him, elections can only take place when the war is over and Hamas has been totally defeated! But since there is no end of the war in sight, elections cannot be held, not for months or years (or maybe never again!).

Very clever! And it is even working so far! The Houdini of Israeli politics manages to survive somehow, from week to week, from month to month. But will this ingenious trick hold water? And more importantly, is it good for Israel?

The short answer is no. This policy, and this Prime Minister, are disasters for Israel, now and for the future. Let me explain why.

First of all, Bibi’s refusal to end the war is a death sentence to the remaining 120 hostages in Gaza (most of whom are probably dead by now, due to his refusal to make a deal earlier). This shouldn’t surprise us anymore, but it still does! It is shocking to the core, especially since the majority of the citizens of Israel desperately want the hostages to be redeemed. Like Pharaoh, Bibi and his extremist partners have hardened their hearts over and over again to the outcries of the families of the hostages and to hundreds of thousands of citizens of Israel who identify with their plight

Secondly, the people of Israel are getting tired of this unending war, which has involved hundreds of military deaths and thousands of injured soldiers, and thousands more suffering from trauma and post-trauma. In addition, it has wrecked the Israeli economy, causing many businesses to close,  brought the tourism industry to a halt and has forced over 100,000  citizens to evacuate their homes in the north and south, with no hope of returning home soon. Bibi’s government has provided no answers for these people. It has nothing to offer but war and more war, with empty promises of “total victory”!

Third, it is becoming clearer and clearer that an all-out war is a very bad idea  (as I have written in previous blog posts) and that it can be prevented by simply ending the one in the south. The New York Times reported yesterday that many senior military leaders in Israel now favor ending the war in the south, reaching a deal to release the hostages, preventing a war in the north diplomatically at the same time that we prepare for it, just in case.  (This has been reported in the Israeli media for weeks already!) What was Bibi’s response? To attack the military once again! And to repeat that the war will go on forever until “total victory” is achieved (and of course, he threw in his usual lie that this will bring home the remaining hostages).

People ask me all the time: how can you get rid of Bibi and his government? And I explain that there are only three ways: 1) The Prime Minister could resign, as would have already happened in a normal country in which the Prime Minister would have accepted responsibility for the debacle of October 7th (of course, this did not and will not happen since Bibi does not accept responsibility—he prefers to blame everyone else.) 2) Some courageous members of the Likud party who are considered to be sane and rational (as opposed to most of the MK’S in that party these days), could step up and announce that they can no longer be part of the political party of this irresponsible Prime Minister. We need 5 of these  people (their names are well known in Israel) but unfortunately, they have refused to do the right thing until now and are likely to continue to remain immorally quiet. 3) Members of one of the other political parties who are part of this super nationalistic ultra-“religious” coalition has a serious tantrum over one of Bibi’s statements or policies and fulfills its threat to leave the coalition (and forego all the money and power they have as partners within it), forcing early elections. Unfortunately, all of these scenarios seem unlikely.

There is one other possibility—a mass rebellion against this government by massive protests, strikes and more. People like former Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert have been pushing for this. Perhaps it will happen over the summer. But even this is unlikely to cause this obstinate and oblivious government to fall.

Therefore, for the time being, we are stuck in Bibi’s “catch-22”. The war goes on forever, and there can be no elections until it ends, which is never.

One other thing might help. If President Biden finally repudiates Bibi and his extremist policies in a serious way. No more bear hugs. President Biden should not meet with him when he goes to Washington to address a joint session of Congress (an event which should never have been allowed to happen!)  with his lies and obfuscations later this month. In fact, as much as I admire President Biden for many things, I am dismayed that he and his administration have not been able to force Bibi and his partners to end this war a long time ago.

There was a huge peace rally in Tel Aviv on this past Monday night, which I attended via zoom, along with thousands of other people in Israel and abroad. The calls upon this government of destruction and irresponsibility were very clear: End the war now, reach a deal for exchange of hostages for prisoners, do not expand the war in the north, and work towards diplomatic solutions. I fully support these ideas.

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,
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