Netanyahu insists on staying in power. Here’s what that’s costing him
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Benjamin Netanyahu has been back in power less than two months, and he is already facing unprecedented, multifaceted challenges on nearly every front.
From Israeli-Palestinian violence, to opposition to his government’s judicial reform, to new challenges on the international stage, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has his work cut out for him.
Netanyahu took office at the end of what was one of the deadliest years for Israelis and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank in years. And the cycle has only gained momentum.
At least 60 Palestinians, both terrorists and civilians, have been killed so far this year, according to Palestinian officials, while at least 14 Israelis (all but one civilian) have been killed during the same period — the latest a 27-year-old. An elderly man was shot dead on a normally quiet west coast road near the ocean.
Two particularly deadly Israeli military raids of the day targeting terrorists in the West Bank have set off a series of Palestinian attacks targeting Israelis.
Two Israeli brothers from West Bank settlements were shot “point blank” while sitting in traffic on a road through the Palestinian town of Huwara on Sunday, in what Israeli officials called a “very serious terrorist attack”.
Hours later, as night fell, Israeli settlers ransacked, burning homes, cars and violently attacking some Palestinians, including shooting and killing a 37-year-old man. In what both Palestinian and Israeli officials say was a “revenge attack” — and what officials on both sides call terrorism.
Israel Defense Forces have sent reinforcements into the West Bank with Palestinian attackers still at large, while at least eight Israelis were detained in connection with reprisal attacks on settlers.
All this happened on the same day that Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian and American security officials met in Jordan in an attempt to defuse the situation and bring some sense of calm ahead of the Ramadan and Passover holidays.
But despite a joint statement on what steps would be taken, including an Israeli commitment to halt discussions about the settlements for months, some of Netanyahu’s own ministers dismissed the summit almost immediately.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir tweeted, “In Jordan (if it happens) it will stay in Jordan.
Despite the deteriorating security situation, most Israelis are focused on the implications of the Netanyahu government’s proposed judicial reform, which has led to eight weeks of continuous, mass protests across the country.
The most impactful of these changes would give the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions and fundamentally change the way judges are selected. While Netanyahu and his allies say the changes are vital to help rebalance a high-powered court, critics say it would erode the independence of the judiciary. Others say it’s a ploy to help Netanyahu get out of his ongoing corruption trial – something he vehemently denies.
But despite regular protests attended by tens of thousands of Israelis – about 160,000 took to the streets this weekend – and requests by President Isaac Herzog to meet with opposition lawmakers to agree on the planned overhaul, the law was pushed through. has been extended The initial stage.
The plan has already led to an economic downturn. Several financial institutions, including JP Morgan, have warned of the increased risk of investing in Israel as a result of the overhaul of judicial reforms. Executives in Israel’s lucrative high-tech sector have either already announced or are warning that they are pulling investment as a result.
“We have been called a startup nation. And we actually say, come on, don’t risk it. Foreign investors have voted with their feet in favor of Israel. And they vote with their feet when they are unhappy with the development. And they express concern, deep concern,” Jacob Frankel, former governor of the Bank of Israel, the central bank, told CNN’s Richard Quest last month.
Wiz, a cybersecurity startup, announced Monday that it has raised $300 million, valuing the company at $10 billion — but none of that money will be invested in Israel.
“Unfortunately, the money raised due to the legal coup will not enter Israel,” Wiz CEO Assaf Rapaport said in a statement reported by Reuters. “Our big concern about Israeli high tech is not only the money leaving Israel, but also the large amount of money that will no longer enter Israel.”
Netanyahu biographer Anshel Pfeffer says much of the controversy surrounding Netanyahu has been fueled by his governing partners — the most right-wing government in Israeli history.
“I think this is the least control Netanyahu has as prime minister. He’s not really running his own government, his government is being run by coalition partners who have him over a barrel,” said Pfeffer, who is also a correspondent for The Economist and Haaretz. “He has no choice… he has no alternative alliance.”
Netanyahu’s ministers have occasionally downplayed his government’s actions.
After the summit in Aqaba, finance minister and resident leader Bezalel Smotrich tweeted: “I don’t know what they talked about or didn’t talk about in Jordan. I heard about this unnecessary conference from the media just like you. But one thing I know: Colonization and development will not stop, not even for a single day (it is under my authority). The IDF will continue to operate to combat terrorism in all areas of Judea and Samaria [West Bank] Without any limitation (we will confirm this in the cabinet). It’s very simple.”
It is also Netanyahu’s coalition partners who are refusing to budge on judicial reform plans, Pfeffer believes.
His coalition is saying “No problem, we are not going to quit – we have this once in a lifetime opportunity for the state. And we want to greatly reduce the power of the Supreme Court,” Pfeffer said. “Netanyahu is not running the show on this.”
Meanwhile, Netanyahu and his government face growing international pressure from allies, particularly the United States, which has criticized some of Israel’s actions and settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank. Even President Joe Biden has gotten personally involved by calling for consensus on judicial reform, a rare presidential foray into domestic Israeli politics.
“We’ve never had these kinds of differences between Jerusalem and Washington, it’s always been on the issue of Palestine. It has been on the Iran issue. The Israeli government has never been about how to legislate on a democratic agenda. And this is the first time we’ve ever seen a president almost openly rebuke an Israeli prime minister on such matters,” Pfeffer said.
Netanyahu will not pick these battles, Peffer said, arguing that he does not want to be in the position of “the entire Israeli business community, the security establishment, the media, and increasingly, the international community,” in which his government Questions have been raised.
But, Pfeffer says, he has no other choice if he wants to stay in power.