Netanyahu lost his credit rating, Israel needs a new statesman – opinion


As Israel experiences a downgrade in its credit rating, a similar fate has befallen its leader. Prime Minister Netanyahu, once considered a respected statesman on the international stage, has lost his rating. And similar to Moody’s forecast, the forecast is negative.

Until last year, the free world regarded Netanyahu as a statesman, one with whom “diplomatic business” could be conducted. He was respected, known as a great strategist, had a prestigious global reputation, with impeccable English and captivating personal charisma. When he set a diplomatic goal, he had the ability to lead agreements, deepen alliances, and advance geopolitical moves. His image often graced the covers of esteemed international magazines, and his iconic speeches at the United Nations were scrutinized with admiration. They didn’t always agree with him, with the foreign policy he led, with his reluctance around the vision of two states, and with the internal-political alliances he formed. Sometimes. they even questioned his intentions, but they still held him in high esteem because the prevailing perception was that under his leadership, Israel’s economy was resilient and that within the turbulent Middle East, Israel was a beacon of democratic-liberal values, and had an amazing ability to quickly recover from periodic rounds of conflict imposed upon it. The perception was that at least some of these successes were due to the leadership of Netanyahu, the statesman.

The first signs of his downgrade came before October 7. The legal reform surprised many leaders of the free world. They struggled to understand where he was heading. He began to get very cold shoulders, even from the White House. They expressed deep concern about his conflict of interest due to his trial and began to cast doubt on their shared values. “Can we continue to regard him as a partner on the path? Or has he lost his way and deviated from his course?” they asked themselves.

And then came October 7, an event that shocked leaders of the free world. They, like most Israeli citizens, never imagined that such a colossal failure could occur on his watch. After the initial shock, they expected, perhaps, as is customary in the free world, that he would take responsibility and resign. After all, that’s what statesmen do. 

In their countries, it is customary to resign for much less than this. But it didn’t happen. And in a swift and relentless mobilization, they decided to put everything aside and embrace him. After all, true friendship is measured in times of crisis. And the crisis was too great to hesitate.

A Moody’s sign on the 7 World Trade Center tower is photographed in New York August 2, 2011. (credit: Mike Segar/Reuters)

It didn’t help. Leaders of the free world are now looking on with amazement and deep disappointment. How is it possible that the depth of the crisis, the historic opportunity, and the international outreach have not caused Netanyahu to change course? How does he continue with hollow declarations about the “absolute victory,” without any readiness to reiterate his commitment to a two-state solution? How does he remain silent about the extreme statements of government ministers and their participation in conferences calling for settlement in Gaza and population transfer?

How does he persist in his weak responses to the aggressive statements of ministers toward US President Joe Biden, challenging the special relationship with the US? How does he refuse to send a representative to the summit in Cairo, despite all international efforts to mediate, and not benefit from the Egyptian and Saudi proposals for regional arrangement? 

Not succumbing to political pressure

How does he not succumb to political pressures in the face of a sectoral budget and a recruitment plan that will only deepen inequality in Israel? And how does he still refuse to present and coordinate a plan for the “day after,” ahead of a massive military operation in Gaza that will affect over a million Gaza residents?

Diplomatic and commercial affairs are primarily conducted with partners, based on trust. And leaders of the free world have lost their trust in Netanyahu; his credit has expired. 


Like Moody’s, leaders of the free world are impressed by Israeli civil society and its democratic institutions. But in order to restore their trust in the state, in order to raise its rating a leader is needed who has vision, courage, diplomatic insight, integrity, and shared values; one they can see as a partner. A statesman is needed.

The writer is a member of the Devorah Forum and a social entrepreneur. She serves as senior strategic adviser to governments and leaders (including UK prime minister Tony Blair), and served in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and National Security Council.