“He has a Trumpian base he can rely on — traditional, conservative, nationalistic — and his perennial question to Israelis, even when he looks bankrupt, is: ‘Who else can do it?’”
Of course, Mr. Netanyahu did not win those repetitive elections, either. He is currently on trial on corruption charges, including bribery. Political survival has become personal, his most effective means of slowing or even stopping the criminal process by somehow persuading allies to grant him immunity. He was unable to form a government after the March elections, leaving him as a caretaker prime minister with diminished legitimacy.
It is unclear, against this backdrop, what role, if any, the prime minister had in the Israeli police raids on Al Aqsa Mosque, the closing of a plaza popular with Palestinians near the Damascus Gate and the plight of six Palestinian families facing eviction in East Jerusalem — the sparks that, in the midst of Ramadan, led to the conflagration.
But it is clear that the ensuing battle benefited him politically.
“Violence returns every few years because of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank,” Ayman Odeh, the head of the joint list of Arab parties in the Knesset, said in an interview. “But the concrete reason this time is that Mr. Netanyahu is willing to burn everything to stay in power. He managed the situation in a way that led to an escalation for his benefit.”
The government insists Mr. Netanyahu did all he could to calm the situation, but finds itself confronted by an implacable enemy.
“When we create collateral damage, something we do our utmost to avoid, we feel guilty and sad,” Tzachi Hanegbi, the minister of community affairs, said in an interview. “We don’t want children killed in Gaza or elsewhere. The Hamas vision is to shoot at civilians and kill as many as possible.”
The deaths in Gaza of more than 60 children have prompted growing international outrage, including within President Biden’s Democratic Party. But Mr. Netanyahu has ridden out such surges of indignation before.