HE has built his image around the idea that he can protect Israel. For decades “Mr Security”, Benjamin Netanyahu, has sought to promote himself as Israel’s defender, unwavering in his dedication to that role.

But with every day that passes in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, it’s hard not to see Netanyahu as an ever-increasing part of the problem rather than part of any solution.

As Israel’s longest-serving leader, one characteristic above all lies at the heart of Netanyahu’s approach to politics – self-preservation. In order to fully understand this, it’s important to see the world through Netanyahu’s eyes insist many Israelis. For example, imagine they ask, what Netanyahu saw just a few days after Hamas’s attack on Israel?

The answer, they will tell you is opportunity, a chance to turn the horrors of that day to his advantage. This is how Netanyahu operates, how he has always operated say his detractors of which there is no shortage.

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What they say is true and the evidence speaks for itself in the simple fact that his political standing is now incomparably better than it was on October 6 the day before the Hamas attack handed him a political get-out-of-jail card.

For months now ever since Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, it’s been pictures of bomb-blasted ruins and bloodied and dying Palestinian children that have dominated our television news bulletins.

It’s all a far cry from late last year, when TV pictures from Israel showed millions of the country’s citizens flooding the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in response to the government’s push for wide-ranging judicial reform and calling for Netanyahu’s right-wing dominated coalition government to stand down.

It’s not that Netanyahu’s policies are now a success in the eyes of many Israelis, far from it. Anger over Netanyahu’s handling of the hostage issue remains raw as does what many see as the government’s failing to prevent what unfolded on October 7 and since in Gaza.

The National: Benjamin Netanyahu

Likewise, few of those Israelis who took to the streets in protest a few months ago have forgotten the threat Netanyahu’s government poses to the country’s democratic system. If nothing else the events of the last few months have convinced many Israelis that things can neither go back to how they were before October 7, nor should they.

As is not uncommon in times of conflict, perhaps especially so in Israel, the country’s citizens have rallied behind the military and families of those killed or taken hostage.

But that same support doesn’t extend to Netanyahu or the extremists that make up part of his government. Only those from the radical settler right and other Israeli nationalist extremists see opportunity in Netanyahu’s continuation in power.

Far from having gone away, the call for changes in Israel’s leadership is likely to grow stronger while divisions among his wartime cabinet are now also increasingly evident.

Opposition leaders have offered to form a unity government not led by Netanyahu, but no moves have gained traction.

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And so Netanyahu is not for budging and why should he when staying in power also prevents the likelihood of him going to jail on the outstanding charges of fraud, bribery and breach of trust he faces.

At this rate though if Israel’s prosecution of the war in Gaza continues on its brutal no quarter trajectory then these charges could be the least of Netanyahu’s worries. Calls for him and his cabinet to account for war crimes and committing genocide could well take precedence if the international community has the spine and commitment to pursue this, not that I’m holding my breath on that one.

Still, you can’t help feeling that Netanyahu will not be forgiven by many Israelis. Unfinished political business and the settling of scores are on the cards for a man who not only oversaw a catastrophic failure of defences that resulted in a war with Hamas, but at a lower intensity, at least for now, with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Israelis have grown to see Netanyahu for the callous, self-serving, opportunist politician that he is. There might be no appetite for protests or elections in wartime, but Netanyahu’s day of reckoning is coming.

The National: Antony Blinken

Writing a few days ago in the daily newspaper Haaretz, columnist Rogel Alpher, pretty much nailed the perception much of the world has too right now of Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu has united the whole world more than Bob Geldof. He unites the sane and the disturbed, democracies and dictatorships, East and West. Never have so many from all across the world been so fed up with one man – and so unable to move him,” observed Alpher wryly.

Alpher points out that almost everywhere you look there is exasperation and despair over Netanyahu. Israel’s biggest ally the US and Joe Biden’s administration appear at their wits end with him, while EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, is at his wits end with both Netanyahu and Biden.

That much was evident this week when Borrell slammed Washington for sending arms to Israel. If the international community is worried about the death toll, “maybe they have to think about the provision of arms”, Borrell, rightly highlighted before citing a Dutch court ruling last Monday ordering the Netherlands government to halt shipments of components to Israel for F-35 fighter jets.

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That’s the problem with the Biden administration and for the matter the British government right now over Gaza, the duplicitous way they have of handling Netanyahu.

Be it Antony Blinken, David Cameron or others, all stamp their feet one minute warning Netanyahu over Israel’s actions in Gaza while signing off another load of weapons to be sent to Tel Aviv the next.

The bottom line here is that it’s time to play diplomatic hardball with Netanyahu. Time to let him know that even if Israel is regarded by the US and UK as its main ally in the Middle East, this does not provide carte blanche when it comes to Gaza or the lives of millions of Palestinians.

For the moment I’m still unconvinced whether Israel is in fact set on moving on Rafah or is instead simply trying to squeeze concessions out of Hamas.

The National: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden (Michel Euler/AP)

That said, if Netanyahu’s track record is anything to go by, those Palestinians crammed into Rafah could well face another bleak passage indeed.

If Netanyahu behaves according to type, he knows those extreme right-wingers in his coalition are vital to ensure his own political survival. In turn, he knows too – as we all do – what those extremists want above all else – the wiping of Gaza from the map and all those Palestinians who live there.

The time is long overdue to let Netanyahu know this is simply not acceptable and that every available diplomatic tool and leverage will be brought to bear on Israel to stop it being carried out.

Only in this way will it be possible to bring some respite to those in Gaza, and perhaps at the same time do many Israelis a massive political favour with the Netanyahu problem in the future.