On December 31, 1973, Israel held an election in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. Golda Meir’s Alignment Party won 51 seats and formed a governing coalition with the National Religious Party and the Independent Liberals Party. The coalition had 65 seats and was sworn in on March 10, 1974, with Golda as prime minister and Moshe Dayan continuing in his previous post as defense minister, though on multiple occasions Dayan had previously offered to resign, even in the midst of the war. A month later, with her coalition fully intact, Golda resigned on April 10, 1974.
Despite coming out of the election with the largest party and successfully forming a coalition, the Alignment had lost five seats in comparison to the 56 they had before the election. Nobody forced Golda out but protesters had been gathering in front of the prime minister’s office. It was obvious that the shortfalls of the war had discredited her leadership and she decided that it was time to go. Golda was never thrown from her chair kicking and screaming. She didn’t need to be. She walked away with her head up and her dignity intact.
A similar case came in 1977 during Yitzhak Rabin’s first term when reports about illegal financial holdings broke. The scandal was largely centered around Rabin’s wife but his administration of the country had nonetheless been discredited and he resigned.
Now, it is not just one Netanyahu immersed in scandal, it is both. It is not just one but several cases. It is not just public awareness or the playing of the Noni Mozes recordings on the radio or the leaking of other details of the cases, it is an indictment hearing before the attorney general after a police recommendation to indict.
It has long been stated that those who wish to unseat Netanyahu should attempt to do so at the ballot boxes, not through the courts. Netanyahu has just been defeated at the ballot boxes, twice in a row. Still, he simply refuses to go.
Even some who voted for his party are uncomfortable with his continued leadership. Likudniks such as Benny Begin, Limor Livnat, Dan Meridor, members of the “new Likud” and others have expressed reservation with the state of the party but Netanyahu has not faced a primary since before the Noni Mozes recordings became known to the public in January 2017 and corruption and mismanagement at the top is not enough to make leftists out of right-wing voters or make them comfortable voting for a candidate like Gantz whose political instincts remain largely untested.
In the meantime, Netanyahu thinks that being able to hold on is a measure of his political ability. He is wrong. Politicians are not supposed to need to be thrown out by brute political force. They are supposed to know when to resign.
The need to throw him out by brute political force because he refuses to leave on his own, after failing at the polls, twice, is an embarrassment, both to him and to the country and a testament, not to his political ability but to his disregard for his own dignity and for the welfare of the country whose political system has been paralyzed for nearly a year.
Dear Bibi, it is still too soon to know just how your political end is going to come. President Rivlin has charged you with the task of putting together a coalition but your prospects for doing so are bleak. Israeli voters have demonstrated their desire for a unity coalition between Likud and Blue and White that will exclude you. That message is clear. Putting that coalition together with you trying to stand in the way could get messy but there are ways for it to happen.
After failing to build a coalition for the second time in a year, eventually members of your party are going to start losing confidence in you. They could split from Likud when Gantz starts offering senior posts. If they don’t split they could rebel from within Likud.
For nearly a year the Israeli political system has been held hostage watching your drawn-out failure to maintain a coalition. There is a better way. For the sake of what measly regard you might still have for the good of the country and for the sake of what dignity you may have left, spare yourself and the entire world the embarrassing public display of your drawn-out blustering, heaving, pathetic political fall and just step down.