Soon, Benjamin Netanyahu will no longer be Israel’s prime minister. After 12 years in power, what kind of country will he leave behind?
Netanyahu wasn’t always the irremediable hawk that his opponents (especially outside Israel) thought him to be. He often displayed a sharp pragmatism, reflecting a keen intelligence, extensive historical knowledge, impressive economic proficiency and a deep awareness of regional and global trends.
But remaining in power was paramount for Netanyahu, so he tended to focus more on appeasing his base than serving the national interest. That often—and increasingly—meant pitting groups against one another by appealing to people’s tribal instincts. He ruled by incitement, implementing policies that matched his ultra-nationalistic, anti-Arab rhetoric.
For example, Netanyahu backed the 2018 nation-state law, which effectively establishes Israeli Arabs as second-class citizens. And he embraced the goal of annexation of Palestinian lands—an issue over which Israeli right-wing coalitions have historically wavered—effectively taking extreme religious Zionism mainstream.
Netanyahu’s successive governments have worked tirelessly to create the conditions for annexation of the occupied West Bank. At times, he seemed to prioritise the fantasy of Judea and Samaria shared by much of his base above Israel itself, pouring billions of dollars into realising it.