The Israeli cabinet ministers have been criticized for their handling of the recent Hamas massacre, which has caused widespread public fury and a rift in the Israeli government. The government is accused of dropping the country’s guard and engulfing it in the Gaza war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces a day of judgment, as public fury over 1,300 Israeli fatalities is further fueled by his self-styling as a Churchillian strategist who foresaw national security threats. Social polarization has also triggered walkouts by some military reservists and raised doubts about combat readiness.
The headline “October 2023 Debacle” in Yedioth Ahronoth evokes memories of Israel’s failure to anticipate a twin Egyptian and Syrian offensive in 1973, which led to then-Prime Minister Golda Meir’s resignation. Amotz Asa-El, research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, predicts a similar fate for Netanyahu and his conservative Likud party. Asa-El believes that the prime minister is responsible for the incident and will go along with his entire establishment.
A Maariv newspaper opinion poll revealed that 21% of Israelis want Netanyahu to remain prime minister after the war, with 66% saying “someone else” and 13% undecided. If an election were held today, Likud would lose a third of its seats, while the centrist National Unity party of Benny Gantz would grow by a third, setting Gantz up for top office. However, Israelis now want action, and as the counter-offensive builds into a potential ground invasion, Gantz has set aside political differences to join Netanyahu in an emergency cabinet. Netanyahu has limited public encounters, meeting relatives of hostages taken to Gaza without TV cameras present.
Israel’s top general, defense minister, and intelligence chiefs have acknowledged failure to prevent the worst attack on civilians in its history. While Israel has gained Western support for its counter-offensive, this may decline if a Gaza ground invasion results in Palestinian casualties and military losses.
Military planners predict that the Gaza war, aiming to eliminate Hamas, could last months, with Netanyahu enjoying a temporary political truce. However, the health of the prime minister, who will turn 74 on Saturday, is uncertain. Some commentators argue that rifts within Israeli society and their impact on national security should be attributed more broadly than to Netanyahu alone. Amit Segal, a political analyst for Channel 12 TV, criticized the war as a result of forgetting to be brothers and urged for immediate repair. Fissures are already appearing within the government coalition, with Likud supporters expressing hostility towards cabinet ministers. The apparent attempt by Netanyahu to evade responsibility is causing wrath and increasing angst among Israelis.