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Netanyahu's Own Likud Members Say It's Time for Him To Go

Protest against Netanyahu. CC/Nir Hirshman

There were over 50 demonstrations last night throughout Israel, protesting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government and war policy, including thousands demonstrating across from his personal residence in Caesarea. In the face of mounting opposition to his government, Netanyahu was asked yesterday about the calls for early elections. Of some note, it is generally accepted that he holds office as long as his War Cabinet partners allow him to, an arrangement not likely to extend beyond the war. However, Netanyahu answered that the next vote for the Knesset will take place “in a few years,” apparently referring to the formal schedule for general elections in October 2026, per the Israeli election cycle. “The elections have a date, it’s in a few years. I suggest we don’t concern ourselves with that during the war.” Apparently, Netanyahu expects his War Cabinet to be necessary for another two and a half years.

As reported by the Times of Israel, he said that “the last thing we need right now is elections,” arguing that voting for a new Knesset would further divide Israelis. He suggests that “if there’s one thing Hamas would like, it’s such a political fight…. What we need now is unity. That’s not a spin.… There’s another quarter of Hamas’s organized fighting force to destroy. We will destroy it.” (Of course, the IDF’s own intelligence report to Netanyahu a week ago makes clear that this is a fantasy. See separate slug.)

Countering the premier’s assertion about staying in office, an unnamed senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, speaking to Ynet, disagreed: “Whoever was prime minister on October 7 will finish his tenure at the end of the war.” Another Likud official told Ynet that “it doesn’t matter how much Netanyahu kicks the can down the road and how much he doesn’t want [elections], at the end of this war we’re heading to elections. If not through Likud, then through Likud’s coalition partners. Everyone understands that this is what’s going to happen.”

Opposition leader Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party put out a statement following Netanyahu’s press conference, that “another performance by an unfit prime minister who, by all accounts, has long lost the public’s trust and continues to flee from the responsibility of the greatest failure to the Jewish people since the Holocaust.... After destroying security, the economy, and foreign policy, the ... calls for elections as soon as possible, which are deeply rooted in most of Israeli society, are already coming from within his government and Netanyahu’s party members. Israel needs change. Elections are the order of the day.”

Earlier yesterday evening, Feb. 17, in a Channel 12 TV interview, Lapid made a sharp comment on Netanyahu’s incompetent defense of Israel and his hypocrisy: “If October 7, heaven forbid, had happened on my watch, he would have sent people to burn my house.”