Can Netanyahu survive the storm gathering around him?

Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestine, International Criminal Court

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has navigated numerous political storms throughout his career, often emerging stronger despite significant setbacks. However, the current challenges he faces, both domestically and internationally, could be the most formidable yet. Recent developments include a potential arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC), diplomatic strains with Western allies, and increasing international recognition of Palestine. These factors collectively threaten to disrupt Netanyahu’s plans and test his resilience like never before.

The ICC’s Prosecutor Karim Khan has requested arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and three Hamas leaders, alleging war crimes committed during the recent Hamas-Israel conflict. The accusations include using starvation as a warfare method, attacking civilians, and depriving them of essential resources. This move has sparked outrage in Israel and among its allies, particularly the United States. President Joe Biden labeled the ICC’s decision as “outrageous,” while Israeli officials condemned it as undermining international law by equating a democratic government’s actions with those of a terrorist organization.

Netanyahu’s response has been equally vehement. He criticized Khan for creating a dangerous precedent that could prevent democracies from defending themselves against terrorist attacks. The Israeli government described the ICC’s actions as a “blood libel” and a “crossing of the red line.” The tension surrounding the ICC’s decision is exacerbated by the fact that Israel, along with the US, does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction. However, Palestine’s status as a permanent observer at the UN allows the ICC to investigate, adding to the international resonance of the situation.

The diplomatic landscape for Netanyahu is becoming increasingly hostile. On May 28, Spain, Ireland, and Norway announced their recognition of the State of Palestine, with Belgium and Slovenia potentially following suit. This shift among European countries reflects growing pro-Palestinian sentiments and a desire to respond to public pressure for action amid ongoing violence. Such recognitions do not immediately change the situation on the ground but signal a significant shift in the international community’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Relations with the United States, Israel’s most crucial ally, are also under strain. The Biden administration has shown signs of dissatisfaction with Netanyahu’s policies, particularly regarding the Gaza conflict. The US recently delayed the transfer of a batch of ammunition to Israel, citing concerns about civilian casualties in Rafah. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the need for Israel to consider civilian protection in its operations. This decision highlights the delicate balancing act Washington is performing, publicly supporting Israel while quietly exerting pressure to limit actions that could escalate the conflict further.

The diplomatic challenges extend beyond Europe and the US. Last December, South Africa filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel, accusing it of genocide in Gaza. The ICJ, supported by several countries including Türkiye and Egypt, recently ruled that Israel must cease its military operations in Rafah and allow humanitarian aid access. This ruling, while largely symbolic given Israel’s likely non-compliance, adds another layer of international legal pressure on Netanyahu’s government.

Moreover, there is a growing perception that Netanyahu is becoming increasingly inconvenient and uncontrollable for Western allies. This sentiment is reflected in various international actions and statements that criticize Israel’s handling of the conflict and suggest a need for a different approach.

Internally, Netanyahu faces significant challenges as well. His far-right cabinet has been a source of controversy, and public dissatisfaction with his government’s handling of the conflict is evident. Mass protests in Israeli cities demonstrate the growing discontent among citizens, further complicating Netanyahu’s position. To counteract this, his government has released graphic footage showing the brutality of Palestinian militants, aiming to rally domestic support and shift international perceptions.

Netanyahu’s political strategy has often involved relying on a close-knit group of loyalists and pursuing policies independently, sometimes against the advice of international allies. This approach has allowed him to maintain power through numerous crises, but the current situation might demand a broader and more conciliatory strategy. The long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict has bred radical elements on both sides, complicating any resolution efforts. A comprehensive and internationally supported peace process remains elusive.

Netanyahu’s ability to survive this storm hinges on his political acumen and the support of key allies. The ICC’s actions, increasing international recognition of Palestine, and strained relations with traditional allies like the US pose substantial threats to his leadership. Domestically, growing public discontent and political opposition further challenge his position.

However, Netanyahu’s track record shows a remarkable ability to navigate crises and emerge resilient. His responses to the current challenges will likely involve a combination of domestic political maneuvering and diplomatic efforts to shore up international support. The broader question is whether these tactics will be sufficient in the face of mounting pressure and changing global dynamics.

Ultimately, the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Netanyahu’s political future may require a transformative approach, potentially involving significant international intervention and a reevaluation of long-standing strategies. As the situation evolves, the international community will closely watch how Netanyahu navigates these turbulent waters and whether his political resilience can withstand the current storm.


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