Benjamin Netanyahu is facing the anger of Israelis on Gaza war

Anti-government protesters gathered in Jerusalem on Tuesday for a four-day protest.

Jerusalem:

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Houdini of Israeli politics and its longest-serving prime minister, has been rejected many times before.

But with thousands of protesters on the streets every night this week demanding his resignation, and anger rising over his handling of the war in Gaza, many wonder how long the veteran political deserter can survive.

Netanyahu, 74, who is usually upbeat, appears physically and politically weak.

Deeply unpopular – more than four percent of Israelis do not trust him, according to a poll late last year – the war in Gaza is taking a toll on the man Israelis call Bibi.

Visibly weak and depressed, he was angry and distraught during a televised speech on Saturday, which his former minister and Likud ally Limor Livnat called “devastating.”

The leftist daily Haaretz said he looked “like a fearful dictator”.

Netanyahu was even thinner when he left a hospital in Jerusalem on Tuesday after a hernia operation, but he faced the anger of the international community after an Israeli attack in Gaza killed seven aid workers from the US-based group. It was done.

“This is what happens in war,” Netanyahu said with an attitude that might not have been appreciated by the White House, who said he was “saddened” by the deaths.

“Netanyahu has been buried politically many times before and has come back,” said Emmanuel Navon, a former Likud member and political science professor.

“But this time is different because of October 7. This is not the same country. It is over for Bibi.”

“He is 74 years old, does no exercise, works very hard and had a pacemaker fitted six months ago.”

– Blamed for the ‘disaster’ of October 7 –

But Navon doubts that a new wave of massive street protests will force Netanyahu from office, despite the fury of the hostages’ families.

Inav Jangouker, the mother of one of the 134 people still held in Gaza, branded him a “pharaoh, a murderer of first-born children” at Tuesday night’s rally outside parliament in Jerusalem, the fourth consecutive night of protests.

They have seen hostage families unite with anti-government protesters who spent nine months in the streets last year trying to block controversial judicial reforms pushed by Netanyahu’s far-right allies.

The “disaster” of October 7 would have finished off any other politician. But Navon compared Netanyahu’s grip on the ruling Likud party to Donald Trump’s grip on American Republicans.

“Likud MPs are afraid of being punished in the next primaries by the ‘trio’ – Bibi, his wife and his son, who decide everything,” said a Tel Aviv University professor.

“People’s political life depends on them. They have grown into populism, their candidates have now become conspiracy theorists. This is not the party of 20 years ago.”

– divide and rule –

With his alliance mired in crisis after crisis, enemies appear to be circling around the leader of Israel’s most right-wing government to date like never before.

Prosecutors are pressing ahead with a corruption case against him despite the war, and protesters tried to break through police barriers to reach his home for the second time in four days on Tuesday.

Even his defense minister, Likud stalwart Yoav Galant, is defying him on the deeply divisive issue of ultra-Orthodox Jews avoiding mandatory military service, while the war continues in Gaza and Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. Another war is looming.

Netanyahu has long depended on the support of religious parties to govern.

“It is inexcusable to forgive an entire community when the army needs so much manpower,” Gen. Reuven Benkler told AFP at an anti-government rally on Monday.

The 65-year-old came out of retirement to serve in the north after the Hamas attack, which resulted in 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 32,916 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Benkler said that “as long as Bibi is still in power, the hostages will not come home”, adding that Netanyahu was dragging out the war in Gaza to prolong his rule – a claim repeatedly repeated at the protests.

“He doesn’t care about anyone but himself.”

Navon said Netanyahu’s three-decade grip on Israeli politics was based on divide and rule. And his claim that only he could keep the country safe was shattered by October 7.

The analyst said his promise of elections in 2026 was “illusory”. “But the protesters’ demands now are also unrealistic. This is more likely to happen when the war in Gaza and the north is won at the end of the year,” he said.

On Tuesday night, Zangoukar, the hostage’s mother, accused Netanyahu of deserting Israel’s guards, and declared at a mass protest to loud cheers: “It’s all your fault – 240 were kidnapped on your watch.” “

“You nurtured and nurtured Hamas,” he said, and yet “you call us traitors (for protesting during the war) while you are traitors.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)