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Political fallout from the latest rocket barrage

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14 Jan 2019 (All day)
Back from the Brink

The massive rocket barrage from Gaza in November not only brought Israel to the brink of war, it also nearly toppled the government. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas to end the escalation, Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned in protest. With the ruling coalition now down to a razor-thin 61 MKs, Education Minister Naphtali Bennett then demanded the defence portfolio, or his party also would bolt the government, triggering early elections by spring. But Netanyahu proved once more why he is the master of Israeli politics.

In a brief address to the nation, Netanyahu explained that Israel was in the midst of a complex, ongoing military operation against its enemies, and thus it was “irresponsible” for Liberman or Bennett to force new elections at such a sensitive time. He did not specify the security operations involved – since then we have learned of risky IDF intelligence gathering inside Gaza, while the US reportedly has assumed temporary control of the air space over Syria, giving Israel a continued window of freedom for now to strike Iranian targets there. Nevertheless, Bennet backed down and Netanyahu saved his government.

However, Netanyahu was left in a precarious position as just one maverick MK can still topple the government over some outlandish demand. It is more likely that he will now look for the right moment and a reason more to his advantage for calling new elections. A national ballot is due anyway by November 2019, and the prime minister must factor in possible indictments over a series of scandals he is facing. But should he survive and win re-election – which all the recent polls indicate is likely – he will surpass founding father David Ben-Gurion as the longest-serving and most-often elected prime minister in Israel’s history.


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