Why Israel's Defense Minister just resigned and what Benjamin Netanyahu will do next

2018/11/1542264164.jpg
Read: 554     13:35     15 November 2018    

The resignation on Wednesday of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is rooted in political opportunism more than policy interest. Regardless, the result is that Hamas is newly emboldened, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on thin political ground.


On paper, Lieberman says his resignation is a necessary rebuke to Netanyahu's military response following Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket attacks over the past four days. Those groups launched rocket strikes following a compromised Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip which led to the deaths of one Israeli and seven terrorists.

But while Lieberman says Netanyahu's acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire is unacceptable, his real interest is political. We can say this with confidence, because until recently, Lieberman had supported Netanyahu's cautious approach towards dealing with Hamas and the PIJ.


What changed was a rising threat to Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party from Naftali Bennett's right-wing Jewish Home party. With a view to possible upcoming elections, Bennett had been criticizing Lieberman for his failure to support a much broader military operation against Hamas. Bennett calculates that he can siphon voters away from Lieberman and thus give Jewish Home a stronger representation in any future Netanyahu-led government. And now that Lieberman is gone, Bennett is warning that his party's support for Netanyahu's coalition government is contingent on the gift of the defense minister's office. The irony here is that Lieberman will now attempt to reverse roles with Bennett and play the role of the greater hawk.

All of this is a serious headache for Netanyahu. The prime minister enjoys strong public approval ratings and had been expected to call an early election to further boost his own party's power in government. But the most recent poll shows a slight dip for the former special forces soldier's party. This reflects another concern. As my colleague Philip Klein notes, Netanyahu is earning a reputation for overdue caution in face of overt terrorist threats. The risk for Netanyahu is that if he continues to allow Hamas/PIJ to wage a slow-rolling war against Israel's southern territory, he'll jeopardize his credibility.

So, what will Netanyahu do?

He is likely to give Bennett the defense ministry and then make clear to Hamas that any continued, even sporadic rocket attacks will result in a far stronger Israeli military response. While Bennett is an exceptionally crafty political operator unlikely to accept nothing less than a full-on ground incursion into Gaza (partly in order to counterbalance Lieberman's soon-to-be-renewed hawkishness), Netanyahu can temper his appeal by offering a halfway path between appeasement and full-on conflict.

Doing so, however, will require Hamas to be educated to the power of Israeli air force squadrons. In specific terms, when the group launches new attacks in the coming days and then denies its own responsibility (blaming PIJ, for example) the Israelis are likely to target Hamas command-and-control centers and mid-senior leadership figures. Netanyahu's opportunity here is that Hamas is far weaker than it presents: Under calculated pressure, it will be put back into its box.

Still, in the first instance, Netanyahu must restore control over his government and regain the confidence of Israel's people.

 

washingtonexaminer



Tags: Lieberman  



News Line

Why Israel's Defense Minister just resigned and what Benjamin Netanyahu will do next

2018/11/1542264164.jpg
Read: 555     13:35     15 November 2018    

The resignation on Wednesday of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is rooted in political opportunism more than policy interest. Regardless, the result is that Hamas is newly emboldened, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on thin political ground.


On paper, Lieberman says his resignation is a necessary rebuke to Netanyahu's military response following Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket attacks over the past four days. Those groups launched rocket strikes following a compromised Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip which led to the deaths of one Israeli and seven terrorists.

But while Lieberman says Netanyahu's acceptance of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire is unacceptable, his real interest is political. We can say this with confidence, because until recently, Lieberman had supported Netanyahu's cautious approach towards dealing with Hamas and the PIJ.


What changed was a rising threat to Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party from Naftali Bennett's right-wing Jewish Home party. With a view to possible upcoming elections, Bennett had been criticizing Lieberman for his failure to support a much broader military operation against Hamas. Bennett calculates that he can siphon voters away from Lieberman and thus give Jewish Home a stronger representation in any future Netanyahu-led government. And now that Lieberman is gone, Bennett is warning that his party's support for Netanyahu's coalition government is contingent on the gift of the defense minister's office. The irony here is that Lieberman will now attempt to reverse roles with Bennett and play the role of the greater hawk.

All of this is a serious headache for Netanyahu. The prime minister enjoys strong public approval ratings and had been expected to call an early election to further boost his own party's power in government. But the most recent poll shows a slight dip for the former special forces soldier's party. This reflects another concern. As my colleague Philip Klein notes, Netanyahu is earning a reputation for overdue caution in face of overt terrorist threats. The risk for Netanyahu is that if he continues to allow Hamas/PIJ to wage a slow-rolling war against Israel's southern territory, he'll jeopardize his credibility.

So, what will Netanyahu do?

He is likely to give Bennett the defense ministry and then make clear to Hamas that any continued, even sporadic rocket attacks will result in a far stronger Israeli military response. While Bennett is an exceptionally crafty political operator unlikely to accept nothing less than a full-on ground incursion into Gaza (partly in order to counterbalance Lieberman's soon-to-be-renewed hawkishness), Netanyahu can temper his appeal by offering a halfway path between appeasement and full-on conflict.

Doing so, however, will require Hamas to be educated to the power of Israeli air force squadrons. In specific terms, when the group launches new attacks in the coming days and then denies its own responsibility (blaming PIJ, for example) the Israelis are likely to target Hamas command-and-control centers and mid-senior leadership figures. Netanyahu's opportunity here is that Hamas is far weaker than it presents: Under calculated pressure, it will be put back into its box.

Still, in the first instance, Netanyahu must restore control over his government and regain the confidence of Israel's people.

 

washingtonexaminer



Tags: Lieberman