Expectations Gap

Many people on social media in Israel today are huffing and puffing about a Facebook post by prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in which he relates a phone call he had with the parents of the soldier caught on tape shooting a wounded terrorist in Hebron.

Netanyahu wrote that he said on the call that “there will be a professional investigation”, but prefaced this by stating that he’s certain the investigators will “take into account the special circumstances” of the recent terror wave and the “pressure and uncertainty” that soldiers face when making such decisions.

Many rightly view this as a blatant intervention by the prime minister, especially as the official investigation is still ongoing and the soldier is still under home arrest. This is even more puzzling because Netanyahu himself, immediately following the incident a week ago, sounded very different. He condemned the soldier, saying that what happened in Hebron “does not represent the values of the Israel Defense Forces”, and that the IDF “expects its soldiers to act coolly and in accordance with the rules of engagement”.

So what happened? Actually, nothing happened.

Those who are angry with Netanyahu’s about-turn suffer from an expectations gap. They expect him to act as a prime minister, and not as one of his hot-headed party members. But he has long ago demonstrated that his words and actions are shaped by one thing only: personal survival. Netanyahu will do anything to remain in power, and to remain in power he needs to make sure his opinions are liked by as many voters as possible. So a week ago, when many were shocked by the shooting, he condemned it. Now, when public opinion seems overwhelmingly in favor of letting the soldier go unpunished, he changed tacks. Simple really.

A caricature in one of Israel’s newspapers today sums it up. The defense minister says to the chief of staff: “this will take a while… he needs to check which way the wind is blowing”.

איור: יונתן וקסמן

So my advice to those angry with the prime minister is to lower their expectations. Better yet, remove all expectations when it comes to Netanyahu. This way, there will be much less huffing and puffing in the future.

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