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What Happened to Netanyahu?

Has it happened to him too? Is he losing touch with reality? It happened to David Ben-Gurion after 15 years in power. His behavior in the Lavon Affair was crazy. He was removed. It happened to Menachem Begin after six years in power. With great honesty, Begin admitted: “I cannot go on any longer.” He said so, and withdrew to his home. Is that what is now happening to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after 12 years in office?

His most recent acts were not sane. They were crazy as far as his own interests are concerned too. Netanyahu could have brought Isaac Herzog into his government. The good Bougie – honest, submissive and disciplined. Herzog would have brought his party with him, all of it or the great majority of it, and guaranteed a long life for the government. Herzog would have calmed the nations of the world, who have started being afraid of Netanyahu. And what did he want after all? For Netanyahu to put certain promises in writing? So what? Since when has Netanyahu hesitated to break his written promises exactly the same way he breaks his verbal promises?

Instead of the comfortable and pleasant partner, Netanyahu chose a devious bully who does not even bother to hide his deep contempt for him. Avigdor Lieberman does not hide his hopes to succeed Netanyahu at the first opportunity either. A partner who the entire world views as a dangerous man. Why? There is no explanation. No logical reason. To bring Lieberman into the government is a suicidal act. To hand the Defense Ministry to him is an insane act.

So what has happened to Netanyahu? Until now he has acted sanely and pragmatically. True, he has taken the path where devastation awaits at its end, our end. True, almost every step he has taken harmed Israeli democracy, the Supreme Court and now the IDF too. But it was possible to explain all these steps as means to survive in power. But no longer.

A person cannot continue to rule the country when a growing number of esteemed people with influence and power, who head such major institutions – the military leadership, courts, media, arts and academia – have all reached the conclusion that he is dangerous. When clear establishment figures such as former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, deputy IDF Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Yair Golan and former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon feel the need of their consciences to stand up and voice a warning. This is what happened to Ben-Gurion. And who is Netanyahu in comparison to Ben-Gurion?

It is a slow process. If only it will not come too late. What can be done to speed it up? He has received many proposals. I made an offer too. But the most practical proposal is the one I read last Friday in an op-ed by Yair Assulin in Haaretz (in Hebrew). A simple and practical proposal, which can be implemented immediately, if only all those involved can understand they have enormous responsibility on them for the fate of the country.

The proposal, as I understand it: The young Knesset members of the Zionist Union will arise – Merav Michaeli, Stav Shaffir, Omer Bar-Lev, Itzik Shmuli, Miki Rosenthal and the others – and leave their party, which is nothing but a living corpse, and establish a new, young and energetic party. They will be joined by other MKs who see the iceberg approaching, such as Orli Levi-Abekasis. They will also invite the support of Ya’alon, Gabi Ashkenazi and MK Benny Begin. They will immediately establish a new faction in the Knesset, raise the flag, write a platform that will put an emphasis on what is shared and not what separates: a banner of peace, democracy, justice, social partnership and purity of arms.

In order to do so, there is no need to wait for the Messiah, to dream. It is possible and necessary to stand and take action tomorrow morning. The alternative is too terrifying.

This column originally appeared in Ha’aretz.

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URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

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