With each week, Israelis’ post-October 7 pledge to avoid politics weakens. We face many searing, complex decisions demanding robust debate. Actually, we just need to avoid returning to the politics of October 6. Perhaps we learned some lessons from the insane divisiveness and demonization that preceded these four months of anguish. We need substantive, complex, respectful – and mensch-like – debate.
Remember: Hezbollah is watching, not just Hamas. How we act politically, militarily, and spiritually, affects Hassan Nasrallah’s calculus whether to foolishly go to war – or wisely avoid Israel’s wrath.
In that spirit, consider the two-and-a-half biggest lies about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – and one devastating truth he cannot dodge.
We are on the world stage and are being observed by enemies
First, Haaretz, your headline “For Netanyahu and Sinwar, Continuing Fighting in Gaza is Now a Goal in its Own Right” is immoral and stupid. I have long criticized Netanyahu. But no one with any moral compass or grip on reality could compare this flawed man and flailing politician with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, an evil, mass-murderer, who kidnaps babies and old people while encouraging mass rape.
Moreover, the slur is false. Netanyahu needs a quick, decisive victory – every day this war slogs on worsens Bibi’s political prospects. Sinwar, however, delights in destruction. Exploiting his people’s suffering, he’s trying to prolong the war to divide and demoralize Israel, while garnering more and more pointless applause from the world’s moral idiots at the terrorist-loving UN, the International Kangaroo Court of Injustice and the morally rotting campuses.
The big half-lie involves October 7. Last week, over 40 “leading” – meaning left-leaning – Israelis embarrassed themselves with a letter reeking of unhinged, October 6, protest politics. Demanding Netanyahu’s immediate removal – which you could justify with mature, measured arguments – they blamed Netanyahu for “the brutal massacre,” insisting: “The victims’ blood is on Netanyahu’s hands.”
Never forget: The victims’ blood is on Hamas’s and many Gazans’ heads.
The only thing more corrosive than a big lie is a half-truth. True, Netanyahu developed the “concept.” But many of these national security “experts” and business leaders trusted the electronic, remote-control army, demanded that Israel accommodate the Palestinians, and foolishly insisted that Hamas wished to govern responsibly.
A decisive victory is in Netanyahu’s interest
And America championed this concept, too. America’s foreign policy establishment, leading Democrats, many American Jews, and much of the world trusted Israeli moderation and Qatari money to keep Hamas “pragmatic” and the Gaza situation contained.
True, in the Likud, such incompetence doesn’t get you fired, but in America, such blind stupidity, compounded by sheer treachery, gets you promoted.
One of this circus’s leading ringmasters was Robert Malley, a foreign policy guru to President Barack Obama and President Joe Biden. Since 2006, he insisted that “Hamas wants the ability to govern,” and shrieked “ceasefire” whenever Israel defended itself. Regarding Iran and its nuclear aspirations, Malley helped America speak softly and carry a flabby stick.
The State Department placed Malley on unpaid leave for mishandling classified documents in an underreported scandal exposing him and other diplomats as possible Iranian puppets. Naturally, this shameful record of incompetence, anti-Israel bias, and suspected anti-Americanism secured him teaching gigs at Princeton and Yale!
Finally, another lie about Netanyahu is the one he tells about himself, namely: “Those who talk about the day after Netanyahu are actually talking about the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Netanyahu is not the main obstacle to a Palestinian state – the Palestinians are. Many Palestinians – especially Hamas – seek one state “from the river to the sea.” Palestinian terrorists exploited the Oslo peace process to murder over a thousand innocents, then, Israel’s total Gaza withdrawal in 2005 just culminated with 1,200 civilians massacred.
Israelis don’t need Bibi to remember this painful history – only 14% of Israelis are currently open to some long-term Palestinian peace deal. Biden and others trying to ram a two-state solution down Israeli throats must explain why, this time, yet another withdrawal or accommodation will generate peace, not worse wars.
NETANYAHU’S SELF-PROMOTING lie still deluding himself that he’s the indispensable man covers the most devastating truth: he’s damaged goods and should retire. In some polls, only 15% of voters want him to stay in office.
Fearing the public, this shell of a man hasn’t offered any unifying vision since long before October 7. The moral and political vacuum at the top hurts us daily.
Netanyahu has been divisive since long before the war
How can someone so compromised with the Americans explain, for example, to Biden that even if Israel keeps providing food and water to Gaza, no fuel should flow until every hostage is released – no fuel, no air in Hamas’s tunnels of death?
How can someone who has spent years demonizing the many Israelis who disagree with him, help Israelis understand the importance of continuing this war – to protect all 9.3 million Israelis – while trying to save the hostages, too? These dilemmas require a Churchill, a Golda, a Ben-Gurion – yet we’re stuck with Bibi.
Initially, most Israelis imagined a lightning-quick victory, crushing Hamas, and freeing the hostages, Entebbe-style. Four months later, this war feels like a slog. We need a leader reassuring us that this war is a careful engineering grind, inexorably crushing the formidable military machine Hamas built, thanks to the global concept.
As I argued in October, if Netanyahu would announce a retirement date in the near future, his words and military decisions would no longer be perceived as so political. President Isaac Herzog should prod Netanyahu into retirement by preemptively pardoning him. Today, it’s far more important to free Israel from its diminished leader than to keep trying him for petty crimes.
A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org ) . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.