Military Calm and Political Turbulence

Last week the Israeli government unexpectedly agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza, despite the barrage of around 460 rockets that had been launched into Israel on Monday and Tuesday. Militarily the region has been relatively calm since that agreement.

However, that ceasefire agreement prompted Israel’s Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman to resign, describing it as “surrendering to terror”. He also withdrew his Yisrael Beiteinu party from the governing coalition, leaving Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition with a majority of just one in the Knesset.

Lieberman’s withdrawal then prompted Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, and Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, to threaten that they would also resign from the government unless Bennett was appointed Defence Minister. Had they resigned and withdrawn their Yisrael Beytenu party out of the coalition it would have faced governing as a minority.

But after Benjamin Netanyahu appealed to the nation that it was not the right time to hold government elections because of the complex security situation surrounding Israel, Bennett and Shaked changed their minds, with Shaked now admitting that giving Netanyahu a public ultimatum was a mistake.

Sharren Haskel being interviewed by i24 news reporterA member of the Knesset left hospital to vote.

Even with their continued support Israel’s government has faced significant problems, needing to call on one member of the coalition to leave hospital whilst still hooked-up to an IV drip so as to vote for the government.

Sharren Haskel is a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party and was angry that the opposition did not offset her absence by having one member abstain from voting. Such are the manoeuvres in current Israeli politics.

Meanwhile military analysts have been exploring possible reasons for Benjamin Netanyahu agreeing to the ceasefire with Hamas. One line of evidence points towards Iran’s involvement in last week’s missile barrage from Gaza.

Some of the missiles used suggest that Hamas are being supplied by the Iranians – something that was confirmed when Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar spoke during an interview with a Lebanese TV channel of Hamas and Hezbollah working together in the war against Israel.

Sinwar also noted that Iran has provided Hamas with “large amounts of cash, equipment and expertise.”

Thus it seems that in agreeing to the ceasefire Benjamin Netanyahu was responding to the ‘bigger picture’ rather than just the conflict with Hamas. One commentator suggests that this was a difficult choice for him, in which he placed Israel’s interests ahead of his own.