Political Turbulence in Israel after Gaza Ceasefire

  • Posted on: 19 November 2018

Last Sunday, Nov 11, 2018, an undercover Israeli unit involved in a covert operation was intercepted by Hamas members in Gaza. This incident triggered deadly clashes that left seven Palestinians and one ISF agent dead. This later evolved into a firefight in which Hamas fired more than 400 rockets and mortars towards Israel in 48 hours and the Israeli military fired around 160 airstrikes targeting several areas within the Gaza Strip.

On Thursday, Hamas and Israel accepted a ceasefire deal after Egyptian mediation. The ceasefire caused an uproar amongst Israelis especially those living in southern Israel neighboring the Gaza Strip where many protests were held bashing the government for accepting the ceasefire deal. Following the incident, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation from the right-wing coalition government in protest of the Egyptian mediated truce accusing the Israeli government of “capitulating to terror”.

Israeli cabinet figures also criticized a decision to partially lift the blockade on Gaza this month to allow in shipments of fuel as well as $15m (£12m) in Qatari aid as backpay for thousands of unpaid Palestinian civil servants. Netanyahu had previously defended his decision to allow the cash into Gaza as a way to avert an “unnecessary war” and prevent a humanitarian disaster. He also claimed on Wednesday Hamas rulers “begged for a ceasefire”.

Lieberman’s resignation caused a massive crisis within the Israeli parliament and speculations that the government will most likely have to schedule an early election since Lieberman's far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party has quit the coalition and its five MPs have withdrawn support for the government bringing down Netanyahu’s coalition from 66 seats to 61 seats in the 120-seat parliament. Following Liberman’s resignation, Netanyahu took the role of Defense Minister for the first time in his political career in addition to his roles as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and Health Minister. However, right-wing minister Naftali Bennet from the pro-settler Jewish Home party demanded that he gets appointed as Defense Minister and threatened to quit and pull his party out of the coalition if he is not given the defense portfolio, which would dissolve the government and call for snap elections. Sources close to Bennet said that’s likely to happen after a failed meeting between the Israeli Prime Minister and Bennet on Friday.

Netanyahu gave a speech Sunday night and warned that early elections would pose a risk to national security saying that Israel is facing the most complex security challenges since its founding and a snap election would be "irresponsible" because of those security concerns. In his speech Netanyahu recalled how in 1992 hardliners toppled a Likud-led government, expecting to further strengthen their hold; instead, the Labor Party swept to power under Yitzhak Rabin and signed a peace accord with the Palestinians, what Netanyahu called the “Oslo disaster.”

All speculations came to an end during a press conference on Monday morning in the Israeli Parliament, Education Minister Naftali Bennet and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security policy but announced that they were dropping their political demands and that their party will remain in the governing coalition. At the press conference, Bennett acknowledged that he may pay a political price for his decision, saying that a political loss against the prime minister is better than a loss against Haniyeh (Hamas Chief).