Guest Editorials, Opinion

Bibi & beyond: How Netanyahu molded Israel

Let it not be lost on Benjamin Netanyahu’s critics that Israel’s just-ousted prime minister leaves behind a thriving economy, with a tech sector envied by the world; per capita GDP grew 60% between the start of Netanyahu’s term in March 2009 and 2020, with unemployment dropping to 3.4% before the coronavirus pandemic arrived. Nor can anyone take away Israel’s exemplary performance in obtaining and administering COVID-19 vaccines.

So too, this page admired Netanyahu’s dogged attempt to block the deeply flawed Iranian nuclear deal — which failed until Donald Trump won the presidency, then hastily and stupidly backed out of the agreement without putting anything better in its place. And we admire his persistent and effective defense of Israel against Hamas terrorism, including by building the Iron Dome air defense system.

Netanyahu also gets credit for working with the Trump administration and his Arab neighbors to advance the Abraham Accords, breakthrough peace or normalization deals with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco.

The man friends and foes alike call Bibi, however, leaves behind an Israel with deep internal divisions in a Mideast where the prospect of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, which is the only path to a safe and sustainable future, seems to be sinking below the horizon. That’s because Netanyahu — with a big assist from alternately corrupt, craven and downright criminal Palestinian leadership — has risked little political capital on peace talks, instead hugging tight Israel’s settler movement and embracing a bad Trump plan that called for Israel to annex up to 30% of the West Bank.

And of course, he now stands accused of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, including by investigators and prosecutors he himself appointed.

Just about the only thing agreed upon by the government that replaces his — with far-right Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leading a coalition that includes the political center and left — is that Bibi had to go. Building on his accomplishments without repeating his mistakes will be no small feat.

This editorial appeared in the New York Daily News. It should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the editorial policy of The Dominion Post.