For Israel’s Netanyahu, war in Gaza and at home | ET REALITY


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The social media post appeared online at 1:10 a.m. Sunday, while most Israelis were sleeping.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had a message: His military and security chiefs, he said, had not warned him of Hamas’ surprise attack on October 7. He seemed to be putting all the blame for the colossal failures on them. even as Israeli forces were expanding a dangerous ground war in Gaza.

The country woke up to a furious response, even from within Netanyahu’s own war cabinet. The post on X, formerly Twitter, was deleted and the Israeli leader apologized in a new one. “I was wrong,” he said.

But the damage was done.

For many Israelis, the episode confirmed suspicions of divisions and disarray at the top during one of the worst crises in the country’s 75-year history and reinforced scruples about Netanyahu’s leadership.

“He’s in survival mode,” said Gadi Wolfsfeld, a political communications expert at Reichman University in Herzliya, north of Tel Aviv.

“He has been through difficult circumstances before and he still believes he can come out of this and still be prime minister when this is all over,” Professor Wolfsfeld said, adding: “The only thing that drives him is to stay in power.”

Among the first to criticize Netanyahu’s comments in the middle of the night was Benny Gantz, the centrist former defense minister and military chief who, in the interest of national unity, abandoned the ranks of the parliamentary opposition to join Netanyahu’s emergency . war cabinet in the days after the massacre perpetrated by Hamas. At least 1,400 people died in those attacks (it was the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust) and at least 239 They were taken hostage to Gaza.

in a sharp pole For his part, Gantz expressed his full support for Israel’s military and internal security agency, the Shin Bet, which is playing a key role in the war, and urged Netanyahu to retract his statement.

“When we are at war,” he wrote, “leadership means showing responsibility, deciding to do the right thing, and strengthening forces so they can carry out what we demand of them.”

Although many senior officials – including military and security chiefs and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – have already accepted some responsibility for Israel being taken by surprise, Netanyahu has refused to do the same. Instead, he has said several times, most recently at a news conference Saturday night, that tough questions will be asked of everyone, including himself, after the war.

Netanyahu, who has been in power for 14 of the last 16 years, entered this war at a low point in his political career, fighting accusations of corruption in the courts even as he and his ultra-nationalist and religiously conservative government attempted to curb the powers. of the judiciary, sparking huge protests and months of civil unrest across the country.

Although thousands of volunteers who make up the military reserves had threatened to resign in response to the measure against the judges, since the Hamas atrocities, the army says it has had a more than solid response to its mass call.

Netanyahu said on Saturday that his judicial reform plan was no longer on the agenda. But his refusal to publicly accept any blame for the Hamas debacle has further weakened confidence in his leadership. Opinion polls conducted since October 7 have indicated overwhelming public confidence in the military and declining faith in government officials.

Many Israelis have an intimate connection with the military, the so-called people’s army made up of conscripts and reservists, many of whom volunteer until middle age. It has an ethic whereby commanders go into battle first, assuming all the burdens and risks of leadership.

Major wars and security failures have brought down Israeli prime ministers in the past, including Golda Meir, who resigned months after the 1973 war, and Ehud Olmert, whose fate was sealed in 2006 by a devastating month-long conflict. with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

And Netanyahu was already in trouble even before Hamas crossed the border. Israeli society was in turmoil and he was at the center of it.

“It started with an overdraft, with no credit to spare,” said Mazal Mualem, an Israeli political commentator for Al-Monitor, a Middle East news site, and author of a recent biography of the Israeli leader, “Cracking the Netanyahu Code.” .”

Mualem said he had no doubt that Netanyahu was fit to lead the war, but that in the end “the anger will be directed at him, no matter how much he says, ‘They didn’t tell me,’ and so on. “

Perhaps that’s why he was quick to correct his mistake on social media, he said.

In it new post Late Sunday morning, showing an unusual level of contrition, Netanyahu emphasized his support for the heads of the security branches, the chief of the military general staff and the commanders and soldiers on the front lines. “The things I said after the press conference should not have been said, and I apologize for that,” he wrote.

The taunt and apology that followed came hours after Netanyahu attempted to address growing public criticism of his apparent lack of empathy and inaccessibility by inviting relatives of hostages holding a vigil outside his Tel Aviv office to a meeting. . He then held a televised press conference in which he answered questions from journalists for the first time since October 7.

In an attempt by the government to show unity at a time of national trauma and danger, Netanyahu appeared alongside his Defense Minister Gallant and Gantz.

The bad blood between them is no secret.

In March, Netanyahu briefly fired Gallant after he openly warned about the danger to national security posed by the move to weaken the judiciary and the uproar it was causing. Gallant was reinstated weeks later under intense public pressure. Gantz was until recently a bitter political rival of Netanyahu, who reneged on a power-sharing agreement with him in 2020.

Many of the questions at the press conference focused on responsibility for not foreseeing the Hamas attack. Hours later, Netanyahu took to social media to try to deflect blame.

“Under no circumstances and at no time was Prime Minister Netanyahu warned about war intentions on the part of Hamas,” said his read post. “On the contrary, the assessment of the entire security echelon, including the head of military intelligence and the head of the Shin Bet, was that Hamas was deterred and was seeking an agreement.”

“This was the assessment presented time and time again to the Prime Minister and Cabinet by the entire security echelon and intelligence community, even up to the outbreak of war,” the post said.

Even if it is deleted, the post is unlikely to be forgotten, and some Analysts see it as a good thing.

“I think it clarifies very well what is worrying Netanyahu these days,” said Gayil Talshir, a political scientist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “He wants to distance himself from the October 7 massacre.”

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