Benjamin Netanyahu - Friend or Foe? How We Lean Towards Strong Conservative Leaders in a Crisis

AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, Pool

There are few people more controversial at the moment than Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. While it is said from time to time that his policies are “popular” on Israeli soil, it seems that only the criticism dominates the news headlines seen both in Israel and abroad. Even for those who support his policies, many claim to have reservations about the person he is. At any rate, it’s rare for him to be praised. 

That’s not necessarily uncommon. We live in a culture where it’s generally the status quo to criticize whoever is in charge. If popularity is the goal, whoever beats out their opponent really doesn’t win much – they have now been awarded the title and trophy of “The Reason for All Our Woes.” It’s nothing personal, and it doesn’t reflect the true merit of the leader. People are simply looking for a scapegoat. They want someone to focus all their frustrations on. Even when times are good, quite frankly, they are bored. 

Netanyahu has not been spared from this centuries-old tradition. Like those before him and those who will come after him, he will be criticized, scrutinized, blamed, and even hated. The pages of history will reflect whoever’s bias authored them. It will not be fair, but it will be, for the most part, congruent with those who have graced the pages before him. This is part of the job description. Netanyahu adds to it with his own unique persona and the controversial decisions he has made that are like kindling to the flame. 

History and current society are exceptionally harsh on conservative leaders. Because conservatism often finds itself on the side of rules and law, the leaders end up like a parent who always has to say no. Modern liberalism is rooted in essentially telling everyone yes, every time. Liberal leaders’ loyalty is to the whims of the crowd. Conservativism is loyal to moral law. Conservatives are willing to draw a line, whether people are offended or not, and it usually doesn’t go over well. 

Things change in a crisis, though. 

There was something peculiar observed. Netanyahu has been mercilessly criticized since the October 7th attacks. He has been called a murderer. He has been called a monster. He has been accused of genocide, starving a nation of people, bombing babies, betraying his people, using his platform for his own agenda, and much more. 

Yet, the moment Biden presumptuously announced “Israel’s” new deal a few weeks ago, online commentators flocked to Netanyahu’s accounts, begging him not to agree. Perhaps it was the silent majority now roused from their slumber, but perhaps it was the very people who criticized him only days before, now hoping he knew they didn’t really mean it. 

In a crisis, the people will rush to conservative leaders like a lifeboat. They will thrust aside those who tell them what they want and give in to their whims, for they know that if the liberal leaders give in to their whims, they will give in to the enemy’s as well. In a crisis the people want leaders who have something else as their anchor – something above the noise of the crowd – something called conviction. 

Netanyahu may be many things. He may be overbearing, he may sometimes come on too strong, and he may sometimes drift amiss in his zeal. But one thing that cannot said of him is that he does not love his country enough to do the hard things for them. He is willing to be hated to do what he believes is right. He has endured criticism on literally every side. He has been immovable when the whole world was against him, literally. Even when his closest ally, the President of the United States of America, betrayed him for cheap voter bait, he vowed to stand alone if he had to. We talk of these things, but who could really live them as he has? Could our current administration? 

It cannot be argued that Netanyahu is without flaw. No human is. Perhaps if Oct 7 never happened, there would be no reason to defend him. Before the war, he was accused of corruption and trying to undermine the country’s democracy. But Netanyahu is the type of strong conservative that doesn’t come around too many times. He is one in a generation. It’s hard to imagine anyone being able to bear the burden he has carried through this crisis. Would any of his political opponents trade places with him? Are they arrogant enough to think it would be easier for them?

One day, many years from now, it will be easier to talk of this time. Rarely ever is a leader praised in their own time. For some, they will not change their perspective. But we cannot take for granted these strong conservative leaders. However disadvantaged we may think our country or crisis is, it can be detrimentally worse to have a weak and easily swayed leader through those times. 

In the first moments after the tragedy of Oct 7th, Israel was unified in a beautiful way that unfortunately doesn’t often come except through tragedy. It was a moment where we could dream it would last forever. But reality set in, and slowly but surely, so did the frays. 

Benny Gantz, the War Cabinet Minister, has called for elections. He has now left the government coalition in the last stretch of the war, only a day after one of the greatest victories – the rescue of four hostages in Operation Arnon. 

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Whether it be days, weeks, months, or years that Netanyahu has left in office, eventually, the next leader will come. They will have their chance to leave their legacy and make decisions that chart the course for the nation of Israel. We will elect our own president at the end of this year. Whatever the course may be, for both of our nations, let us hope that we are led by strong men or women of courage and moral fortitude, for it is a pitiful thing for a great nation to be led by a coward. 



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