It was a classic error in judgement. A social media post on X (formerly Twitter) went up at 0110 Sunday, while most of us were asleep. The Prime Minister opined that his military and security chiefs had failed to provide him with any warning of the surprise Hamas assault on Oct. 7th. In that short post he placed all the blame on them for the colossal lapses even as the IDF was expanding the challenging ground war in Gaza.
I suppose that he had no recollection of the famous name plate on the Resolute Desk in the White House office of former US President Harry Truman which said in no uncertain terms: “The Buck Stops Here,” the antidote to those who, like the Prime Minister, choose to pass the buck to someone else.
It did not take long for the outrage to build, including from members of the war cabinet. Netanyahu knew he’d made a colossal error in judgement, deleted that post and then apologized in a new one saying simply: “I was wrong.” And boy, was he.
Since then, any number of people have called for his immediate resignation. Labor party leader Merav Michaeli said the government is failing to lead Israel during its toughest moments, and demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be ousted from office immediately.
“Even in our hardest hours, until today, we had leadership,” she said. “The State of Israel is in its hardest moment and the public feels that there is no leadership, there is no management…..the public sees the prime minister worrying only about himself.”
I have no doubt that there are a great many people in this country who agree with her. However, I think it would be a huge mistake to force that issue in the middle of a war.
We here in Israel spent the first 9 months of this year tearing ourselves apart conflicted over the issue of judicial reform as the precursor to a whole series of additional changes to Israeli society planned by the right-wing government of Prime Minister Netanyahu. There is no doubt that the inordinate amount of attention paid to this struggle, the chasm that was created between various segments of society as a result of the struggle, and the resultant destruction of the social contract between the people and the government, drew the leadership’s attention away from the single most important thing in our lives here…..protecting us from our enemies.
A commission of inquiry will be empowered, discussions will be held, evidence will be collected, but we already know the outcome. The government will most likely be found to have neglected its seminal obligations while it pursued a strategy that weakened us even further than their lack of attention to the security issue.
Based on this alone the current coalition and its leadership have clearly forfeited their right to govern. Given that, the Prime Minister would do well to own up to these errors and resign…..but not now.
On October 6th, a day before the massacre of over 1,400 of our friends and neighbors, we were, for all practical purposes, two separate countries. But on October 7th, the brutal invasion by Hamas did for us what we could not do for ourselves, it brought us together as one people. The very same reservists who a day before swore they would not fight for this country, donned their uniforms and reported for service. 200,000 Israelis living abroad returned to the country to either report to their units or just be here to help. ELAL, the only airline flying here from western countries, even flew on Shabbat and, when needed, permitted people to fly home sitting on the floor of the planes, if there were not enough available seats. We were, once again, one country facing a common enemy.
A move today to oust the Prime Minister would generate a new rupture, a new split in our community that would put in danger our capability to be victorious over the enemy. Moving in that direction today is the last thing we should consider given that we have already learned the lesson this year that this country cannot afford a society splitting dispute.
Let’s let the war cabinet govern, let’s win the war and then, if the Prime Minister is the man I think he was and can still be, he should take responsibility as Golda Meir did after the 1973 war, and resign. Either way, whether he does or does not do this, the Knesset will most likely dissolve itself and new leadership will be elected, hopefully leadership that fully understands that the future of the state overrides any person’s individual desires or concerns.
At this point in time, almost four weeks into the war with Hamas, it is worth remembering the closing portion of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address which has a message for us even today, 160 years later, given how many of our dead we have already buried.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
This is our charge today and must be our charge until victory is complete. Those who want to throw yet another monkey wrench into the pile of challenges, should restrain themselves and let the leadership finish the job. Then we can deal with the political side.