Bibi-bashers risk reenergizing Bibi’s base – opinion

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The Jerusalem Post 21.02.2024


Bibi-bashers risk reenergizing Bibi’s base – opinion


Those of us yearning for a mature, realistic debate about the hostages , and a more patriotic, constructive approach to Israeli politics, just witnessed some hopeful signs.


But first the bad news. The gap between the patriotic politics most Israelis desire and the petty politicians we’re stuck with keeps growing.


That is one of the many reasons most Israelis have lost faith in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu . Ironically, today, those most likely to save Bibi by reenergizing his base are the Bibi-haters. Their rabid attacks on him – and their attempts to hijack the hostage issue – still convey their contempt for the “primitives” who traditionally backed Bibi. These leftist firebrands risk sending Bibi’s old supporters back to Bibi, just for spite.


THREE LONG-BATTLING factions form the broad-based consensus fed up with Netanyahu’s endless rule . The first are these Bibi-bashers. Many of these Tel Avivis-plus types have hated Netanyahu since Oslo.


Their great strength – their relentlessness – is their great weakness. Their arrogance often infuriates potential allies. There was no reason to color the “Bring Them Home” posters in the “Crime Minister” campaign’s black-and-red. This rookie mistake was a classic “tell.” In their minds, the two causes blur. They didn’t realize how obvious their broader agenda is to the rest of us, whom they have long underestimated.

Similarly, they have a depressing but revealing passion-gap. During the judicial reform protests, their fellow zealots abroad formed groups like UnXeptable to harass Israeli politicians and American donors they despised. How come they haven’t deployed that same pathological energy against genuine enemies by protesting aggressively – yelling “Free them Now!” – outside Qatari Embassies, Red Cross headquarters, anywhere any Iranian diplomat wanders, or the UN?


Bibi burnouts constitute the second group of opponents. Led by Naftali Bennett, Avigdor Liberman, and Gideon Sa’ar, these soured stalwarts were burned by Bibi, or feel burned out by seeing him overstay his welcome – especially since he formed this government-that-can’t-govern-straight. These fed-up critics helped the small “Crime Minister” protests become the mass movement against the judicial reform.



They, too, must beware their success. If they revert to their pre-October 6 hysteria and tactics, they risk alienating those of us who, even then, despised the empty, unpatriotic, threats not to serve in the army, the contempt for anyone who disagreed with them, and the opposition’s elitist bent.


As someone who wants our current solidarity to calm Israel’s partisans, Left and Right, I think it’s essential to cultivate the third, newly alienated group to dislodge Bibi.


“Mr. Security”

These betrayed Bibistas trusted “Mr. Security” until October 7 – when he became Mr. Insecurity. These die-hards from Sderot, Netivot, the North, felt abandoned when Hamas invaded, then finally noticed just how dysfunctional Netanyahu had allowed the government to become, following years of neglect. Fortunately, noble volunteers have filled many gaps bad governance created.


The betrayed Bibistas join the once-silenced majority demanding loftier leadership – yet notice Netanyahu’s pathetic public performances since October 7. We crave a Churchill, a Ben-Gurion, a Golda. Instead, we’ve gotten “the phantom,” at best, and a smarmy demagogue, still playing his old divide-and-conquer tricks, at worst.


“THANKS” TO both sides’ blind spots, the hostage question risked becoming a stalking horse for the Bibi-bashers, amid a one-sided debate about the hostages – because who can dare debate publicly, given the agony each family is experiencing?


This week may have improved the dynamics, finally.


First, the Jewish People Policy Institute’s Israel Society Index showed what most Israelis already knew – that most Israelis prioritize crushing Hamas militarily to freeing the hostages.


It’s not that Israelis don’t care passionately about the hostages – it’s just that most don’t trust Hamas. Most believe only military pressure freed the first wave, and only more, overwhelming military force will free the rest. Remember, Hamas sabotaged the temporary ceasefire – when there were still women they promised to free. Given that, future negotiations must begin by accounting for every hostage, confirming who’s alive, and a deal should free every live hostage, immediately.


Many wonder: what other country would supply kidnappers and their cheerleaders with humanitarian aid, as our own citizens endure unimaginable agony, daily?


A second sign proved that Israelis’ majoritarian position is not “anti-hostage,” but realistic. The IDF discovered that medication intended for the hostages never reached them – surprise, surprise. So those claiming that Netanyahu and others negotiating skeptically and tenaciously care less about the hostages than the mediators pushing for any deal are both naive and unfair to him and Israel. Not trusting Hamas or Qatar, and worrying that the Americans are too anxious for a deal, is a reasonable position protective of all the hostages, not insensitive to their plight.


Finally, after Bibi-bashers kept blurring the holy hostage campaign with their anti-Bibi crusade, some hostage families wisely rebelled. In pressuring Ronen Tzur to resign as the communications consultant of the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, dozens of families agreed that “a consensus is needed to approve a deal for the release of the hostages, and one of the important perquisites is operating under a leader who is not painted in one political color or another, through his fault or not.”


Those words eased out Tzur, a leading Bibi-basher. Ironically, those words also explain why Netanyahu should resign immediately, or specify a retirement date in the near future: so the “consensus” we need on freeing hostages, invading Rafah, the “day after,” and so many other issues, can emerge “under a leader who is not painted in one political color or another.”


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. 




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