An open letter to Binyamin Netanyahu

You can be just another prime minister who did what every other prime minister has done before him. Or you can be a prime minister that stood on principles and courageously applied them.

Netanyahu at Likud meeting 370 (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Netanyahu at Likud meeting 370
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
Dear Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, I want to share with you the feeling of frustration that many of us Likud members have been feeling since you took office.
Until now, this feeling did not cause us to leave the Likud, but as someone who loves this incredible movement, I do worry of the consequences of your continued movement away from the party’s traditional principles.
Five years ago, when I received my new identity card after making aliya, one of the first actions I did was to call the Likud offices in order to join the party. This was a day of great pride for me, as I felt I was joining a great movement with an outstanding history, which stood for an unlimited love for the Land of Israel, a realistic view of international relations and a liberal view of economics.
In the past few years, your government has moved away from every single one of these principles. What is even more shocking is that for the past few decades you have been the most talented spokesman in Israel for those very principles in your many speeches and writings.
Many Likud members now ask themselves: has our leader changed his views? Is the Likud still the Likud, or should we start looking for a new movement to join? After all, the reason why we are a part of the Likud is not just because of the name tag, but because of those very principles.
As terrorists are getting released in order to advance negotiations that will lead nowhere, this became the straw that broke the camel’s back. That led me to write this letter, where I show you that your actions are the exact opposite of the policy you have always promoted.
My greatest hope is that this letter finds you and convinces you to reevaluate your actions, for the good of our Likud and for the good of the State of Israel.
No to a demilitarized Palestinian state
It is now public knowledge that you have shifted from your traditional position of opposing a Palestinian state and have now decided to support it. The only thing still differentiating you from the far Left on this important issue is your insistence that the Palestinian state should be demilitarized. However, one must ask if this difference is actually significant, or if it is nothing more than spin to keep differentiating you from the Left.
The fact that demilitarization is meaningless is clear from history. After all, Nazi Germany was demilitarized before it became militarized.
No country in the world will go to war against another country just because it built a military. It would wait for the country to use its military, and by then it would be too late.
Yet there is no need to look far to find a coherent argument against the idea of a demilitarized state. In fact, you have given some of the best arguments on the subject.
In the past, you indeed spoke of the fact that if we recognize the right of every minority to a state, there is no end in sight to this demand.
Israeli Arabs could wake up and request an Israeli Arab state within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. After all, what is the difference between them and the Palestinians, other than the fact that they live on different sides of the armistice line? You also famously came out against anyone comparing the demilitarization of Sinai as part of the Camp David Accords, to an eventual demilitarization of Judea and Samaria. Your argument was simple: Judea and Samaria are close to Jerusalem and to Tel Aviv. Only actual Israeli rule of these territories will ensure that Israel can have the territorial depth it needs to push back attacks coming from the east.
This fact obviously has not changed. We still need territorial depth. If anything, the recent events in the Middle East teach us that we cannot count on Jordan staying our friend forever, since it is impossible to foresee events in this region. This only strengthens your argument! The Netanyahu which the Likud wanted in office would never have agreed to such a concession.
Therefore, I ask myself, what did change? Did you change your worldview? Is Prime Minister Netanyahu different than the Netanyahu we all respected and admired?
No to the release of terrorists
One of the most puzzling changes we are witnessing in your opinions is on the subject of the release of terrorists.
From a very clear “We do not negotiate with terrorists,” you have now already freed a number of terrorists, first in the context of the Gilad Schalit deal, and now in the context of renewed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.
You used to call the release of terrorists a fatal blow to our attempts to unite the world against terrorism. After all, if we ourselves release terrorists, how can we ask the world for a more stringent approach? Your opposition to the Jibril Agreement, where Palestinian terrorists were released in exchange for three Israeli prisoners, makes it hard to understand the Schalit deal. However, it makes it still harder to understand how you can now release terrorists without getting anything in return! The only thing you are getting is the great “privilege” to sit at the negotiating table and discuss the creation of a Palestinian state, which you should not even be pursuing! Mr. Prime Minister, your brother, Yoni Netanyahu, was killed in a heroic mission that took place specifically in order to stop the release of prisoners in exchange for hostages.
How has releasing terrorists now become so easy for you?
No to government intervention in our economic choices
Moving away from security issues, there is another important area in which the government under your leadership is implementing policies which are the complete opposite of the ideas you represent. That area is economics.
You are known in Israel as one of the rare representatives of a capitalist neo-conservative worldview. Your liberal economic agenda should mean less government intervention, more free markets, less government spending and less government debt.
However, after the social justice protests of 2011, your government started applying policies which are at odds with such principles.
First of all, you implemented “free education from the age of three.” Of course, the name of the policy initiative hides the fact that nothing in this world is free. If we give “free” education, the taxpayer must pay for it.
Also, this means that people who do not wish to send their children to kindergartens are penalized.
As a liberal economist, you should be completely opposed to this policy! The fact that the deficit of Israel keeps on getting bigger, and that your government has expanded the amount you are adding to the deficit, is contradictory to your conservative principles that promote fiscal responsibility.
There are also tax increases. While keeping income tax low, the value-added tax keeps on getting higher. A true free-marketer would cut spending instead of increasing taxation.
THE FIELD of economics is no different than the other fields we have already explored.
Here too, the principles you have stood up for throughout your career are not being applied.
Let Binyamin Netanyahu be Binyamin Netanyahu! The reason why I am writing this letter is not simply to criticize. I want you to know that your greatest supporters are incredibly disappointed with your performance. If your political strategy is to widen the support you have in the public, then you should know that doing so at the expense of losing your base will mean that you will have no political support left.
The Left will never vote you into office, and the Right is becoming more and more frustrated with the policies you are implementing.
But I am also writing this letter to give you another message. My feeling is that the Netanyahu whom I admired from his writings and speeches is still there. However, he is afraid to lead. In Israel, it is much easier to take the direction which the old elites have outlined, rather than to lead in a new direction. This has been the problem of the Right ever since it came to power. It won elections, but could not lead.
At this point in your career, you are probably thinking of the legacy which you will leave behind. The choice, in my view, is clear. You can be just another prime minister who did what every other prime minister has done before him. Or you can be a prime minister that stood on principles and courageously applied them. You can be a leader. You just need to let the prime minister be Netanyahu! Few people have the skills to be true leaders.
You are one of those few people.
The question is: Do you have the willpower?
The writer is an attorney who graduated from McGill University Law School and Hebrew University’s honors graduate program in public policy. He is currently working as a research fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.