By: Rania Kisar
★ Israel’s war cabinet begins to fracture.
With the Israeli military campaign in Gaza lasting longer than Israelis had hoped, and with the costs of the war economy and of large-scale military mobilization mounting, the fractures within the country’s war cabinet are beginning to publicly show. Pressure is mounting in particular on opposition leader Benny Gantz and his Knesset bloc to break from PM Netanyahu’s war cabinet–of which Gantz is a member–and push for near-term elections. According to polling of Israelis, new elections would result in a resounding defeat for Netanyahu and his governing coalition. Netanyahu could also face an internal leadership challenge within his coalition from defense minister Yoav Gallant.
Netanyahu is therefore trying to lead a war effort while fighting for his political life. Against that backdrop, he announced on Sunday that Israel rejected Hamas’ conditions for the release of detainees in Gaza. The Israelis said in exchange for the hostages’ release, Hamas demanded a withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Gaza strip and cessation of war. Some observers outside Israel claimed that Netanyahu is purposely trying to extend the military campaign so as to hold onto power, but this ascribes to Netanyahu more control over events that he actually has. In reality, a large majority of Israelis do not want Netanyahu to remain in office but support continuing the war as the best means of bringing Israeli hostages home and ending the threat Hamas poses. The IDF offensive in Gaza is therefore not a Netanyahu-driven campaign, and likely to continue regardless of the prime minister’s political fortunes.