TEL AVIV — An embattled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent the final week before elections defending himself against criticism on a variety of topics from veterans of the country's security establishment, including charges that he is backing away from the two-state solution with Palestine.
Confirming fears within the Likud that this election may be slipping through his fingers, Netanyahu told the Jerusalem Post on March 12, "Our security is at great risk because there is a real danger that we could lose this election."
The rebukes came from a wide array of former security officials, the most prominent being former Mossad head Meir Dagan.
At a massive rally held at in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on March 7Saturday, Dagan said, "I am frightened by our leadership. ," he said. "I am afraid because of the lack of vision and loss of direction. I am frightened by the hesitation and the stagnation. And I am frightened, above all else, from a crisis in leadership. It is the worst crisis that Israel has seen to this day."
With over 35,000 people in attendance, the Israel Wants Change rally, organized by Million Hands, a grassroots group in favor of the two-state solution, was one of the most visible and sharp attacks from the left against Netanyahu.
Also speaking at the rally, former Officer in Charge, Northern Command head Maj. Gen. (res.) Amiram Levine echoed Dagan's sentiments and warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel to a bi-national or apartheid state.
"I have felt that Israel is losing its way and we are on the path to disaster," he said.
Similar comments were heard March 11 at a press conference held by the Commanders of the Security for Israel, on March 11Wednesday, which comprises of 200 former security officials, where former Mossad head Shabtai Shavit issued the following condemnation against Netanyahu:
"No one else is responsible for the failures in facing Hamas [and] the Iranian nuclear program. No one else is responsible for turning the United States from an ally into an enemy," Shavit said. "We are asking you, where is your sense of responsibility?"
Another member of the organization, retired Maj. Gen. Amos Yaron, a former director-general of the Israeli Defense Ministry who also was and whose previous positions included Israeli defense attaché to Washington, said clarified that the organization is not anti-Netanyahu per se. Rather, it aims to influence a more constructive , strategically oriented security strategy that includes negotiations toward peace with the Palestineian Authority and moderate states throughout the region.
With that goal in mind, Members of the organization have expressed grave concerns over recent reports stating that Netanyahu has backed away from his support of a two-state solution. Those misgivings stem from a Likud statement released last this week that implied land concessions necessary for a Palestinian state are "no longer relevant" given the tumult currently rocking the region east west of the Jordan River.
A subsequent statement from the prime minister's office clarified that position, stating, "Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear for years that given the current conditions in the Middle East, any territory that is given will be seized by the radical Islam just like what happened in Gaza and in southern Lebanon."
Speaking to Defense News on March 12, Yaron rejected that premise.
"Our message is simple: We can no longer sit back and complain that there's no partner. Our government must enter into serious negotiations toward peace with the Palestinians and all the other appropriate parties in the region."
Netanyahu's defenders within his Likud Party, though, wasted no time campaigning on his behalf and dismissing the criticism. lobbied against him.
Speaking at a March 11 press conference in the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said affirmed Netanyahu's defense policy, saying, "if we hadn't been in charge the past two years or six years, there would have been a Hamastan in the West Bank."
In an online chat with the left-wing Haaretz newspaper, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz attributed the attacks as part of an elaborate campaign orchestrated by the media, the Palestinian Authority and anti-Netanyahu operatives in the US.
Steienitz was referencing the Victory in 2015 (V15) organization financed by One Voice, an left-wing non-governmental organization that NGO which receives funding from non-Israeli citizens abroad and advocates for a "viable Palestinian state."
"I am definitely worried. I see the campaign against us, the media's mobilization against us, the mobilization by the Palestinian Authority's and also by elements in the United States against us. I see something that looks like support for the other side," he said.
Only the March 17 election Tuesday's results will determine if the outcry against Netanyahu resonated with the public.
Currently, the Isaac Herzog-led Zionist Union Party is enjoying a marginal lead in the polls with a projected 24 seats, while Likud is hovering around 20.
The conventional wisdom among political analysts here is that if the polls are accurate and Netanyahu loses, the then this election is more of a referendum against the prime minister instead of a vote of confidence in Herzog himself.
In an ironic twist of fate, then, if Netanyahu's six-year rule comes to an end, he only has one person to blame: Himself.