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Has the Hamas-Israel war spelled the end of Netanyahu’s political career?

Israel-Hamas crisis is deepening political crisis for beleaguered Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu whose government is under fire for 'failing' Israelis.

Even as the endgame in Israel-Hamas remains out of sight, Israelis have given the verdict on their Prime Minister – they want Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu out of power as soon as the “October debacle” is over. Several surveys, as reported by Haaretz and other media outlets, report mounting fury against the PM and his National Unity government.

All the surveys have been conducted in the last 10 days after Israel launched ferocious attacks on Gaza following Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israeli cities.

Netanyahu, the first Israel-born Israeli PM, was already facing heat of Israeli public, activists, politicians, and the opposition over graft allegations and the “judicial overhaul” that was aimed to arm the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) override Supreme Court rulings and grant excessive control to the government for judicial appointments.

Before the October 7 Hamas attacks, the biggest crisis in Israel was the Netanyahu government itself and the country was witnessing regular protests.

The surveys say that there is a nationwide perception that the failure of the Netanyahu government caused the tragedy of October 7 that saw the highest ever single day Israeli killings, said Haaretz.

Survey of Surveys

The polling company for Hebrew language daily Maariv, Lazar Research, found in its survey among both Jews and Arabs on October 11-12 that Netanyahu’s party Likud sank to 19 seats from its current tally of 28 – a precipitous drop of 32 per cent compared to the pre-attack poll. His partner Barry Gantz’s National Unity Party catapulted from 29 to 41 seats, up 41 per cent.

Netanyahu’s personal ratings have hit rock bottom. Respondents were asked who they would prefer to see as PM after the war, “Netanyahu or someone else.” Two-thirds chose someone else, anyone else, without even knowing who it would be. That was more than three times the number who chose Netanyahu (just 21 per cent).

Among those who voted for Likud, just under half preferred Netanyahu, while one-third supported someone else.

The survey conducted by agency Camil Fuchs among Israel’s Jewish population only asked if the Hamas attack showed there was a “leadership debacle” in Israel or not. A near-consensus of 84 per cent of the (Jewish) respondents said there had been a debacle – including sweeping agreement from 79 per cent of those who voted for the current coalition last November.

Two-thirds responded that the debacle was worse than that of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Another powerful majority, three-quarters of the Jewish respondents in Fuchs’ poll, said the government had either a very great or great responsibility for the situation leading to the collapse of defense systems for the southern communities. Just 7 per cent said that it had little or no such responsibility. No fewer than 61 per cent of voters for Netanyahu’s own coalition said the government bears very great or great responsibility.

Among Israeli Jews who voted for opposition parties, 90 per cent want either Netanyahu (23 per cent), Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (2 per cent) or both (65 per cent) to go.

According to a survey conducted in two waves on October 8 and 13 by Hebrew University researchers and the Agam Institute, a majority of Israeli Jews support the militant policies regarding Gaza. Over half of Jews chose the option to “occupy the entire Gaza Strip through an IDF ground invasion”.

‘Bibi’s game is over’

Reflecting on the survey results and the ongoing Gaza attacks, American news website The Daily Beast commented that two outcomes seem imminent: “One is that it is highly unlikely the Iranian-funded terror group (Hamas) will survive this war. Another is that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also almost certain to be brought down… Polls have made it clear that politically, Netanyahu is a dead prime minister walking.”

Observers of West Asian Affairs and Israeli politics agree that the most troubled political figure in the region right now is Benjamin Netanyahu.

Dr Moinuddin Ahmed, a Delhi-based Israel Affairs expert, said that it would be premature to write Bibi’s political obituary and that his fate hangs on the outcome of the ongoing crisis. “The Hamas attacks on Israel appear to have severely dented Bibi Netanyahu’s reputation as a strong leader. If Israel can wrap it up (Gaza operation) quickly besides ensuring the return of hostages, Netanyahu may stay. If the conflict gets bigger, there will be a huge pressure on Bibi to leave the office.”

Dr Omair Anas, research director of Centre for West Asia Dialogue, New Delhi, said that in Israeli politics, political heads roll. “Thus, given the burden on Bibi’s shoulder of a series of fiascos, the current crisis may prove to be the last nail in his coffin. His game seems all but over,” Anas said.