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Bibi’s Poisoned Legacy

Summary:
After 12 years with Binyamin Netanyahu in power, Israel is more divided than it has ever been, and Israelis have largely lost hope that their country can be both Jewish and democratic. Can the new government, united only by its aversion to the country's longest-serving prime minister, push back against this legacy? TEL AVIV – Soon, Binyamin Netanyahu will no longer be Israel’s prime minister. After 12 years in power, what kind of country will he leave behind? Making America Global Again Al Drago/Pool/Getty Images Can We End the Pandemic? PS OnPoint Getty Images

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After 12 years with Binyamin Netanyahu in power, Israel is more divided than it has ever been, and Israelis have largely lost hope that their country can be both Jewish and democratic. Can the new government, united only by its aversion to the country's longest-serving prime minister, push back against this legacy?

TEL AVIV – Soon, Binyamin Netanyahu will no longer be Israel’s prime minister. After 12 years in power, what kind of country will he leave behind?

Netanyahu was not 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 prioritize the fantasy of Judea and Samaria shared by much of his base above Israel itself, pouring billions of dollars into realizing it.

And yet, there were times when Netanyahu was not quite...

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