David Lehrer

Only Bibi

Like hundreds of thousands of other Israelis, on October 7th, I put away my pro-democracy sign and repurposed my Israeli flag. War is no time for political debate. Israeli civilians had been massacred, raped, tortured, and kidnapped. Despite my disgust with the current Israeli government and its head, Benjamin Netanyahu, and even though the current Israeli government had failed in its most basic responsibility, to protect its citizens, I stood by Israel’s government and its armed forces as we exercised our right to self-defense. While the government’s failures were so apparent on October 7th and the days following, it was clear to me that the last thing, Israel could afford in the middle of a war, were elections.

A national unity government seemed the logical next step. Instead, we got a national unity government in name only. Gantz did the right thing, as usual, stepping up (stepping under the stretcher). I am not sure what Lapid was thinking. No other opposition party joined the government. Bibi’s maneuvers allowed him to claim he had formed a national unity government but kept his right-wing religious extremist government intact for the day after.

Even with a less-than-national unity government, I continued to support the government’s basic goals – return our hostages and remove the Hamas threat to Israeli citizens. I have raised my concerns about the large loss of Palestinian civilian life and about the conditions of over 2 million Palestinians in Gaza as the IDF conducts its military operation. I have done so out of a concern for basic human rights and the need to maintain US support for Israel. Until now, I have accepted Bibi’s mantra, that “There will be time after the war to investigate.” At the same time, Bibi tells us that the war will go on for months or maybe years, putting off his accountability for failure until some unknown date in the future.

While I continue to support Israel’s goals to return our hostages and remove the Hamas threat to Israeli citizens, I cannot support the continued tenure of this government. Bibi must resign, not because of his failure to protect Israeli citizens on October 7th; not because for the past year, out of his own self-interest, Bibi has led an extreme right-wing religious government that tried to tear down Israeli democracy and tear apart the Israeli people; not because for the past decade and a half he has strengthened Hamas, weakened the PA and allowed the settler movement to destroy the possibility of a political solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Bibi must resign, not because of what he did or did not do, but because of what he is not doing right now and what he is incapable of doing next.

The only functioning branches of the Israeli government are the Ministry of Defense, the IDF and the various security and emergency branches. Every other ministry under the control of Bibi’s coalition government is dysfunctional. The ministries of Finance, Economy and Industry, Health, Education, Welfare and Social Affairs, and Interior, have all failed to provide adequate responses to the catastrophe that has befallen the country.

Our economy is heading into a tailspin, businesses have been shut down with no clear path to reopening, over hundreds of thousands of civilians from the Gaza Envelope and the northern border have become homeless, wandering between hotels and friends’ apartments. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is leaderless, failing to meet the need of the hour, as country after country cut off diplomatic relations. Even those countries with which Israel has strong relations find those relations strained as Israel fails to provide adequate explanations for its actions towards Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Then of course there are the superfluous ministries, often created for political expediency, which are guzzling down millions of much-needed shekels to maintain Bibi’s coalition and political future.

But it is not only the complete failure of Bibi’s government to govern that requires his resignation, it is the fact that Bibi cannot lead Israel out of the current crisis we are in. To free our hostages and to remove Hamas as a threat to Israeli citizens, the IDF has bombed and now invaded Gaza. From the point of view of a military operation, we seem to be making progress. There is still a long way to go. It is yet to be seen if we are making any progress on the release of the hostages. The release of the hostages, and the removal of Hamas as a threat, however, will not be a victory, unless Israel can safely withdraw its forces from Gaza and be guaranteed that a new Hamas will not arise to send rockets into Israel and make life impossible for the residents of the Gaza envelope.

An international coalition led by the US, and including Arab countries and other countries from outside the region is the only way to guarantee security. Civilian governance, however, requires a Palestinian authority, either the current PA or a new and improved one. The only way Arab countries and moderate Palestinians will help Israel extricate itself from Gaza will be if there is a real political process that leads to a two-state solution. Even, if Israel finds a way to deal with Gaza, it is left with the enormous military threat on its northern border, one which has caused tens of thousands of Israelis to flee from their homes. UN Security Council Resolution 1701, calling for the establishment of a demilitarized zone between Israel’s northern border and the Litani River, may be the diplomatic route for Israel to achieve security in the north, enable those tens of thousands of internal refugees to return home safely and avoid a war in Lebanon more destructive and more terrifying than the current war in Gaza.

Bibi does not have the credibility or trust of the US government, the international community or the Arab countries with which Israel has relations to build the required international coalition to take charge of security in Gaza, or to manage a diplomatic solution to the crisis on Israel’s northern border. Bibi does not have the strategic vision or political power to maneuver his right-wing extremist religious coalition into a political process that would lead to a two-state solution, the key to Israel’s long-term security in the region.

Only Bibi can extract us from his government’s dysfunctionality and strategic failures by resigning. His resignation as head of the Likud would bring down the current government and open the opportunity for a real unity government headed by Benny Gantz. According to the latest polls, many of those who shouted at me “Only Bibi,” as I stood on the road protesting the anti-democratic actions of the current government over the past year, now agree with me: Bibi must go.

About the Author
Dr. Lehrer holds a PhD from the Geography and Environmental Development Department of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and a joint Masters Degree in Management Science from Boston University and Ben-Gurion University. Dr. Lehrer was the Executive Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies from 2001 until August 2021 and has now become Director of the Center for Applied Environmental Diplomacy. Dr. Lehrer has been a member of Kibbutz Ketura since 1981.