Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime unity government is in a precarious place largely because of the prime minister’s own political vulnerability. The greater the number of politicians who believe they’d benefit from new elections, the more knives there will be out for Bibi. Right now, polls suggest that Benny Gantz’s party would win enough seats to form a coalition without Netanyahu’s Likud party. And that widens the net of people who see themselves getting a share of the spoils if Netanyahu falls.

But there’s another angle to this that Bibi no doubt is keeping an eye on: the civil-society opposition.

Prior to Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre and the ensuing war, Israel’s civil-society groups were focused on trying to stop the government’s proposed judicial reforms. That meant organizing massive protests—hundreds of thousands took to the streets—plus strikes and other labor actions and even a nascent and controversial rebellion among military reservists.

On Oct. 7, that coordinating infrastructure turned its attention to supporting the defense of the state and helping hostages and their families. Some anti-reform groups paused their work while some of their members joined efforts to help the IDF or the captives. Other groups stayed intact and simply adjusted their mission to the current moment. The tech sector lent its expertise from one to the other, and some of Israel’s bareknuckle political strategists did the same.

The only downside to this was that the hostage efforts never quite transcended the politics of the moment. The highest-profile organization, the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum, for example, has made immense resources available to the affected families but has also worn on its sleeve its antagonism not just to Netanyahu but to the relatives of other hostages who are seen as insufficiently hostile to the government.

Netanyahu is keenly aware that this infrastructure of opposition can and likely will flip its attention back to the prime minister at some point. True, the war isn’t yet over and the hostages are not all accounted for. But the fact that antiwar protests are once again taking place is a sign that the political status quo, once frozen in place, is thawing.

Another sign is an interview given by Gadi Eisenkot. A member of the war cabinet who lost his son and nephew a day apart to the fighting in Gaza in December, Eisenkot told Israel’s Channel 12 that a total defeat of Hamas is unrealistic and that new elections should be held in a matter of months so that the government maintains its electoral legitimacy in the eyes of the public for the remainder of the war.

Public disagreement over end-goals is an indication that members of the war cabinet have broached the subject, behind closed doors, of breaking up the coalition. “As a democracy,” Eisenkot said, “the State of Israel needs to ask itself after such a serious event, ‘How do we continue from here with a leadership that has failed us miserably?’” If this is a trial balloon, the public is letting it float—another sign that the momentum may be with Eisenkot.

In addition, as I wrote two weeks ago, Netanyahu has an intra-Likud challenger, too. Should the current government fall, Nir Barkat, the 64-year-old former mayor of Jerusalem, will seek to replace Bibi atop the party he has led for two decades. Netanyahu’s grip on his party hasn’t loosened much over the years—if anything, it’s gotten stronger. But a black swan event like Oct. 7 and the war can rattle things that seem to be glued in place. Barkat will also certainly point to the national polls to argue that a fresh face might save the party from a full public thwacking.

Bibi is no underdog within the Likud. And he is not powerless as prime minister. Further, anything can happen between now and the next time elections take place. Netanyahu’s political obituary has been written many times, and been wrong every time.

That there are so many sources of political threat should help observers understand why Netanyahu is sticking to his guns on postwar planning for Gaza. Specifically, why he is so willing to explicitly reject Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s repeated suggestions that Israel and the Palestinians get back on the road to a two-state solution.

The Hamas attacks—and the possibility of war in the north, with Iran’s Hezbollah thugs—means there is absolutely no mechanism whatsoever for working toward Palestinian statehood until the situation in both places is stabilized. Gaza is far from that point, and voters aren’t going to penalize Netanyahu for refusing the distraction of the two-state solution at a moment when there is no means and no appetite for it. That discussion will resume at some point, and it will remain the stated goal of much of the Israeli establishment, but it is simply ridiculous to be having that debate right now.

Bibi is constantly taking the pulse of the electorate, and he knows the penalty for upsetting the State Department is less harmful to his prospects than wavering on Israel’s security needs during wartime. If anything, having this particular fight is a lifeline for Netanyahu. If the opposition isn’t careful, they’ll give Bibi all he needs to hang on.

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