Aren Maeir
Concerned Israeli and archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University

How will Netanyahu be remembered in history?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a person who prides himself as having broad historical knowledge, the son of a well-known historian. As such, over the years, he has not only studied and quoted history in his public talks and statements, and related to it in his policy making, he made it clear that he is interested in being remembered in the future as the “protector of Israel.” The events of the last year and half, and in particular, those since October 7th, 2023, have changed all of that.

The current political, military, social, economic and diplomatic train wreck that Israel is in the midst of, casts many doubts, not only on PM Netanyahu’s legacy. More than that, one can ask several questions: In the many years in which he served as the senior elected leader of the State of Israel, did he indeed prepare Israel for a worst case scenario such as we are currently experiencing?; Did he do his best to place the relevant people in the key political and military/security positions, and were those in these crucial jobs the most able and capable people, to navigate Israel in times of trial and difficulty?; Does he have the ability to lead the country through the complex crisis we are in?; And no less important, can he clearly and unequivocally take responsibility for his major part in the failures leading up to the October 7th disaster, and the many poorly made decisions and actions, in the months following it?

One has to concede that Netanyahu is hardly the only person to blame for this perfect storm of calamities that Israel is experiencing. A long line of political leaders, from the entire spectrum of the political scene, have for decades made poor decisions, extraordinarily wrong assessments, and shoddy and embarrassing actions. Without a doubt, many political and military leaders should immediately resign in shame; others, who made mistakes in the past, should have a bit more humility and awareness regarding their willingness now, to share advice and comments. Clearly, the broad spectrum of leadership in Israel is in need of serious revamping.

To this one can add that the complex coalition politics in Israel, something that in the past Netanyahu was a wizard at handling, has become quite impossible and embarrassing. Even Netanyahu, the impressive and capable political conjurer of previous governments, has failed to bring together a competent coalition and government. Whether you support or are against his coalition and government, it is clear to all that many of the ministers, members of Knesset, and other key figures in this coalition, are incompetent at levels that are hard to imagine.

Granted, Israel is facing a daunting political, military and diplomatic situation, which would be difficult, if not impossible to handle, for any leader and government. We are surrounded by horribly evil enemies, and the State of Israel, and Jews throughout the world, are experiencing hatred and double standards at levels not seen for decades.

But with all the above, Netanyahu has been, and is still, the elected leader of the State of Israel, for more than a decade and a half. He is supposed to be the one who says “the buck stops here!” If things have reached the catastrophic proportions that we are currently in, clearly he has a major, if not THE major, responsibility for this state of affairs.

As I know Benjamin Netanyahu is a highly intelligent man, with a deep sense of purpose, dedication and historical perspective, the current state of affairs in Israel, and deep down, his awareness of his responsibility for the situation we are in, must be a very painful place for him to be in. I hardly envy him.

I believe though that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, if he wants to save some aspect of his historical legacy, can still do something to craft how future generations will assess him.

The fact that he didn’t grab the moment, right after October 7th, and announce that he is the leader of Israel and he is responsible, and this will be fully examined and he will take fully responsibility, is one of the biggest mistakes, and missed opportunities, that he ever made. It vaguely reminds me of the historic opportunity that I believe President Barack Obama missed, when immediately after his election, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As many of us knew at the time, this was a bit embarrassing, to be awarded such an prize based on your future potential. If President Obama had reacted to being awarded the prize, and had graciously thanked the committee but had declined to accept the prize, he would have been remembered as a truly noble leader. But he missed that.

And back to Benjamin Netanyahu. Even though he missed his golden opportunity right after October 7th, I believe he still can rescue something positive for his long-term historical image. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should demonstrate that he has civil courage, as years ago he demonstrated that he had courage under fire.

To do this, he should immediately announce that he takes full responsibility for the overall failures of the State of Israel under his leadership, provides a clear and immediate date for his resignation, and puts into place a full scale investigation of all aspects leading up to, and connected to, the failures of October 7th, as well as the yet unfolding political, military and diplomatic events of the last seven months.

If he does this, he will be remembered as a man of honor, courage, and someone who has the ability to demonstrate that the State of Israel is a strong, modern and democratic nation, which can bounce back from even the deepest chasm. A country whose leaders have vision, historical perspective and clear knowledge of the resilience of Israel and its people.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – you have the chance now! Don’t miss it! Too many leaders have missed opportunities that fell in their lap, to change how history viewed them. It’s not too late to do the right thing.

Please do listen to my suggestion. I’m telling you this as a concerned Israeli, and as someone who studies the distant past, and understands a thing or two about historical legacies…

About the Author
Aren Maeir (b. 1958), after serving in the IDF as an officer in an elite unit, studied archaeology and Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and completed his PhD in archaeology (1997; summa cum laude). From 1991 he has taught archaeology at Bar-Ilan University (in Ramat-Gan, Israel), at the Martin (Szusz) Department of Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology. He serves as the Head of the Institute of Archaeology at Bar-Ilan University, directs the Tell es-Safi/Gath Archaeological Project (, co-directs the Minerva Center for the Relations between Israel and Aram in Biblical Times (, directs the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies (Bar-Ilan University), co-edits the Israel Exploration Journal, and is a corresponding member of the German Archaeological Institute. His primary research and central field work is the archaeological project at Tell es-Safi/Gath, the study of a major site in Israel (ongoing for the last 27 years), is one of the largest and well-known excavations of Bronze and Iron Age cultures conducted in recent decades in Israel. Utilizing broad and groundbreaking multidisciplinary research and collaborations with scholars from Israel and abroad, he trail-blazed transformative research on many topics. His research serves as a model for collaborative, interdisciplinary studies, enabling new insights and paradigm changing results. In particular, changes in the interpretative narrative on the Philistines and their culture, stand out. His research touches upon broad issues, bridging between disciplines and topics, cultures and periods. He has published some 20 volumes and close to 350 papers, and has received more than $9M in research funding from Israeli and foreign competitive granting agencies.
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