Netanyahu faces political turbulence after Gaza war


Israel observers predict election next year after ceasefire deal this week gave no definable gains to either side in conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is facing a bout of political turbulence after leading Israel through a seven-week war against Hamas in Gaza – a conflict that has caused a rift in his cabinet and drawn deep public scepticism.

Some observers are predicting an election next year after this week’s ceasefire deal gave no clearly definable gains to either side in the conflict. However, at present there is no strong and credible challenger to Netanyahu, who is serving his third term as prime minister at the head of a coalition government.

Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon and military chief of staff Benny Gantz gave a press conference, broadcast live on Israel’s main television channels, on Wednesday evening at which they presented the conclusion of the war as a military and political triumph for Israel.

Israel had secured a “great military accomplishment and a great diplomatic achievement” in the conflict, and Hamas had been dealt a “heavy blow”, Netanyahu said. “From the start, we set a clear goal and that was to inflict serious damage on Hamas and the other terrorist groups and by doing so to bring extended quiet to all Israel’s citizens,” the prime minister said.

“Hamas was seriously beaten. We destroyed the tunnel systems which it built for years. In addition, Hamas is diplomatically isolated. Will we reach our goal of long-term quiet? I think that it is still too early to tell, but I can say that the severe damage caused to Hamas and to the terror organisations, and our ability to prevent them from rearming themselves by controlling the borders, those will increase the chances for this goal’s implementation.”

The Israeli public, however, was apparently not convinced. A poll published in Haaretz newspaper found that 54% of those surveyed believed there was no clear winner in the 50-day war.

Four cabinet ministers – including foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman and economy minister Naftali Bennett, both hardliners to the right of Netanyahu – opposed reaching a deal with Hamas to end the war, although no cabinet vote was taken on the agreement. During the conflict, Lieberman and Bennett advocated a harsher military strategy aimed at toppling Hamas and taking over the Gaza Strip.