Israeli leader’s ouster remains long overdue

Berl Falbaum

It is time for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign or be removed from office.

Why? If for no other reason that he apparently never heard of the fable about the turtle and the scorpion. To explain:

On a shore, a scorpion implores a turtle to let him sit on its shell as the turtle swims across the river.  When the turtle expresses concern about the scorpion poisoning him with a deadly sting, the deadly predator promises he will not harm the turtle.

The turtle agrees but halfway across the river, the scorpion stings the turtle which slowly, in agony, begins to die.

“Why did you do this?” asks the turtle. “It isn’t logical. Now we both die because you can’t swim.”

“It has nothing to do with logic,” replies the scorpion. “This is what I do. It is in my character.”

Netanyahu made a deal relating to Hamas -- the scorpion -- which led to the deadly sting, a war from which neither side will come out a winner, no matter how it ends.

Specifically, Netanyahu and his government, secretly approved -- although it was widely discussed -- millions of dollars in payments to Hamas from Qatar, money which was supposed to be used for government services but not for building 300-400 miles of tunnels for warfare.  

According to public reports summarized in The New York Times (Netanyahu denies them), he said that it was important to keep Hamas strong as a counterweight to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Such a strategy, the prime minister believed, would ease the pressure on him to negotiate a Palestinian state.

Dmitry Shumsky, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, wrote that Netanyahu pursued a policy of “diplomatic paralysis” to avoid negotiations with the Palestinians over a two-state solution which is opposed by the right.

Shumsky said that Netanyahu’s mistaken strategy turned Hamas from “a minor terrorist group into an efficient, lethal army with bloodthirsty killers who mercilessly slaughtered innocent Israeli civilians.”

Yuval Diskin, former head of Israel's Shin Bet security service, told the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth in 2013 -- in 2013 -- that "if we look at it over the years, one of the main people contributing to Hamas's strengthening has been Bibi Netanyahu, since his first term as prime minister."

So, as might have been predicted, Hamas, the scorpion, inflicted its deadly sting October 7 because that is what it does in order to live up to its charter’s credo:  Destroy Israel. It is in its character. Now, Netanyahu, who supported the payments to Hamas from Qatar, in a leaked recording, labeled Qatar “problematic,” further straining relationships.

If that were not enough to get rid of Netanyahu consider how he is alienating Israel’s closest ally -- the United States.  

He responds to each call for moderation in the war by President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken with hostility and angry, non-compromising language and behavior.

Even if he disagrees, he might do so with more diplomacy and respect for a U.S. president who has shown commendable patience in the face of Netanyahu’s petulance.

The prime minister displayed the same disrespect for President Barack Obama when, in 2015, he bypassed the president and gave a speech before Congress in which he disagreed with Obama’s policy pertaining to a nuclear Iran.

Despite Netanyahu’s insults -- and they are insults -- Biden had maintained his overall support of Israel in the war, but that cannot last forever. The pressure on Biden to be more “balanced” continues to grow and it would not be surprising for the president to change course and increase his criticism of Israel and do so on the world diplomatic stage.

Netanyahu has hinted that Israel does not need the U.S. to defend itself and he is wrong on that has well. The loss of sharing important intelligence and the financial aid Israel receives from the U.S. are vital blood lines.
Netanyahu might also consider that, presently, Israel does not have many friends in the world.

Finally, for this column, on why Netanyahu needs to resign or be ousted, are his efforts to weaken Israel’s Supreme Court.  

His controversial judicial reform proposal brought tens of thousands of protestors to the streets in Israel every week.  The proposed law would give the Knesset (Parliament) the power to overturn Supreme Court decisions which critics charge undermines Israel’s democracy and separation of powers doctrine which, while Israel has no constitution, operates similarly to ours.  

In January, the Supreme Court ruled against the proposed new law, writing, the change would have caused "severe and unprecedented harm to the core characteristics of Israel as a democratic state.” It is not clear how Netanyahu plans to proceed.)

Many believed that Netanyahu proposed judicial reform to protect himself from conviction of corruption charges for allegedly taking gifts from beneficiaries in exchange for favorable treatment from his government. (He denies the charges.)

The firestorm over judicial reform may also have caused Netanyahu’s government to take its “eye off the ball” and not recognize how Hamas was planning for war. Israel’s military and intelligence agencies had collected evidence of Hamas’s plans for the October 7 attack. Some of Hamas’s training was conducted just a few hundred yards from the Gaza-Israeli border.

But no one acted on it. As a result, Hamas was able to sharpen its stinger and Netanyahu failed badly in protecting the state from the scorpion’s deadly venom.

Not only did Netanyahu trust an inherently untrustworthy predator, but he failed to develop an antidote. Thus, he needs to leave office -- one way or another.


Berl Falbaum is a long time political reporter and author.