Protest leaders, ex-security chiefs step up calls for Netanyahu to resign amid war

After a period of political moderation, critics say Netanyahu not fit or capable to lead country during war

Jeremy Sharon is The Times of Israel’s legal affairs and settlements reporter

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2023. (Dana Kopel/POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a press conference at the Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv on October 28, 2023. (Dana Kopel/POOL)

Leaders of the judicial overhaul protest movement, as well as former senior security officials, have in recent days ramped up their criticism of the government and called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, after a period of relative political moderation in the immediate aftermath of the October 7 atrocities perpetrated by Hamas.

Many of the protest organizations that sprang up against the government’s agenda to reduce the power of the judiciary turned themselves into civil volunteer organizations to help those affected by the Hamas invasion and massacres, and to campaign for the release of the captives taken hostage by Hamas, in the wake of the savage assault.

But activist leaders such as Moshe Radman and Shikma Bresler, together with former Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin and other former senior IDF officials, have now begun calling for Netanyahu to resign in the midst of the war with Gaza.

“‘You don’t change a prime minister during a war’ is a mistaken comment that is repeatedly said by journalists, public figures and citizens in general,” Radman posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday.

“But the truth is the opposite. We must change [the prime minister], Netanyahu is today the only thing that stands between us and victory, the unification of the people, and the strengthening of deterrence and the restoration of the economy and society.”

Radman, who is one of the most prominent leaders of the movement against the judicial overhaul and who was arrested and injured during anti-government demonstrations, claimed that Netanyahu was “the father of Hamas,” that he initiated the concept with the security establishment that Hamas was an asset to play off the Palestinian Authority, and that he was willing to tolerate short rounds of conflict with Hamas over the years of his leadership as a result.

Bressler, another of the most prominent anti-judicial overhaul activists who was frequently attacked by Netanyahu’s allies and coalition officials, has also become increasingly strident in demanding Netanyahu leave office.

“Trust is the ABC of leadership. Netanyahu cannot lead the IDF into war,” she posted on X, citing a poll showing extremely low trust in the prime minister’s leadership in the wake of the October 7 attacks.

“The soldiers don’t trust Netanyahu, he can’t lead Israel in wartime,” she posted two weeks ago, after an IDF soldier began shouting “liar” at the prime minister during a visit he made to an IDF base in the south, leading Netanyahu to cancel a speech he had planned to give there.

Former senior security officials have also argued that the prime minister should leave office now, despite being in the middle of Israel’s most serious conflict in nearly two decades.

Writing for the Walla news site, Diskin denounced Netanyahu for trying to blame the current head of the Shin Bet and the head of military intelligence earlier this week, and insisted the prime minister bore ultimate responsibility.

Ex-Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin addresses a protest against the planned judicial overhaul, in Tel Aviv, on April 22, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

“The Simchat Torah pogrom constitutes the explosion in our faces of the lies, the fake, the loss of direction of the State of Israel. There is only one man who is responsible. The longest-serving prime minister in the history of the State of Israel — Benjamin Netanyahu,” wrote Diskin on Monday.

The former Shin Bet chief said Netanyahu had failed at a “strategic” level and said the country needed to demand the prime minister resign immediately and an emergency government be established to deal with the war.

In the wake of Netanyahu’s X post against his own security chiefs, retired IDF major-general and former commander of the IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division Noam Tibon also called on Netanyahu to resign immediately in an interview on Sunday with Channel 12 News.

Gen. (ret.) Noam Tibon, in a Channel 12 news interview, tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to resign, October 29, 2023. (Channel 12 screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

“On that black Shabbat, Hamas, a not very large organization, humiliated the IDF and humiliated Israel,” said Tibon, who drove to southern Israel on the morning of October 7 where he fought and killed Hamas terrorists, and rescued his son and family from Kibbutz Nahal Oz.

“There are people who are to blame for the failures,” said Tibon, noting that the IDF chief of staff, and the head of the Shin Bet, have already said they bear responsibility for the disaster.

“The only one who has not taken responsibility is Benjamin Netanyahu,” continued Tibon, who was also active in the judicial overhaul protest movement.

“People have lost their entire sense of security in the past three weeks. And therefore I say directly to Netanyahu: Take responsibility. Resign now. It will help the campaign.”

Netanyahu’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the calls for him to resign.

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