Those who expect Netanyahu’s stature and ability to dominate Israel’s agenda to be severely diminished if he’s pushed out of office could end up sorely disappointed. For many Israelis, Netanyahu will remain the king-in-exile, for years to come. And even if he never makes it back into the prime minister’s office, his stamp on Israel will last for decades.
For a start, the incoming government would be comprised to a large degree by politicians he molded. Bennett
began his public career as Netanyahu’s chief of staff and learned how to be a politician from him. Likewise, Netanyahu shaped many of the new government’s senior members — Avigdor Lieberman
, Ayelet Shaked
, Gideon Sa’ar
, Zeev Elkin
and others. They may have become his implacable rivals, but they were all his protégés unlikely ever to fully emerge from his shadow.
It’s not just Israel’s political class that has been imprinted by Netanyahu. In pursuit and perpetuation of his power, he has exploited every divide, between Jews and Arabs
, religious and secular
, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, stoking
historic resentments and playing communities off each other
. It will take years, probably decades, for Israeli society to heal.
Meanwhile he has done everything in his power to reverse any progress that was achieved by his predecessors on trying to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Netanyahu refused to countenance any concessions
to the Palestinians, insisting that time is working on Israel’s side. His approach worked under the supportive Donald Trump administration, when four Arab countries
were prepared to ignore the Palestinian issue and make peace with Israel, but more recently, tensions have once again exploded into violence in the latest bloody clash
with Hamas in Gaza and riots on the streets
The new government is united only by the desire to replace Netanyahu. It’s unlikely to be capable of agreeing of any policy going forward on resolving the conflict. Neither is the new government expected to make any radical changes to Israel’s regional policy. It will continue to confront Iran’s nuclear program and proxies, though it may be less vocal than Netanyahu was against the Iran nuclear deal if the Biden administration rejoins it.
Netanyahu’s Israel is at war with itself and far from realizing any peace with its Palestinian neighbors. It will remain Netanyahu’s Israel long after he is no longer its prime minister.