Opinion | Israel Must No Longer Live by the Sword

Opinion | Israel Must No Longer Live by the Sword
Opinion | Israel Must No Longer Live by the Sword

Mr. Gantz, one of the few Israeli leaders who could unseat Mr. Netanyahu, has remained in the emergency war coalition not only because of his continuing support for the war but also to act as a counterweight to Mr. Netanyahu’s extremist coalition partners. Yet, as a result, Mr. Gantz’s party has lent both stability and a veneer of cross-partisan legitimacy to Mr. Netanyahu’s unruly, hard-right coalition. If Mr. Gantz started his political career to challenge Mr. Netanyahu, he and his party have now become the prime minister’s political lifeline.

Still, with or without the fig leaf of unity that Mr. Gantz provides, Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition is unstable. The greatest threat to its continuity is the looming crisis over military draft exemptions for Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox religious men, which could divide the ruling coalition between its hawks, who would like to see them drafted, and the most religious rabbis, who view compulsory service for men in the community as a disruption to their way of life.

Mr. Netanyahu also faces emergent threats from the far right — in particular, from Itamar Ben-Gvir who has been preparing to challenge Mr. Netanyahu for having been too soft on Hamas and, he claims, too deferential to US calls for restraint. Mr. Ben-Gvir’s Jewish Power party was the sole faction in the coalition to vote against a cease-fire deal in November, which led to the release of 105 hostages held by Hamas. Mr. Ben-Gvir has also threatened to pull his party out of the governing coalition in the event of a more comprehensive agreement, which would most likely require releasing hundreds of Palestinian militants from Israeli prisons. “A reckless deal = collapse of the government,” Mr. Ben-Gvir https://twitter.com/itamarbengvir/status/1752278205216481567?s=20 in January.

Mr. Netanyahu’s fear of being outflanked from the right may help explain why he has engineered an acrimonious public spat with the Biden administration, despite Israel’s near-total dependence on US military aid. Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, and Amos Harel, a military affairs analyst for Ha’aretz, have both observed that Mr. Netanyahu’s blurb about an impending incursion into Rafah — the city in southern Gaza where more than one million displaced Palestinians have taken shelter — derives more from Mr. Netanyahu’s personal and political considerations than urgent strategic imperatives. Not only does he want to keep the war going, he wants to rally his hard-line base by appearing to stand up to US pressure.

Even within Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party, there are whispers of “the day after Bibi.” Enterprising politicians have begun to jockey for the place of his successor. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who is Mr. Netanyahu fired and then unfired at the height of the protests last year, has attempted to stake out an even more hawkish stance on the war to appeal to right-wing voters; it was mr. Gallant who pushed for a pre-emptive strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon after Oct. 7. Nir Barkat, the former mayor of Jerusalem and Israel’s richest politician, has tried to take Mr. Netanyahu to task publicly for mishandling the economic crisis that has accompanied the war. And, while much of Likud has embraced Mr. Netanyahu’s style of right-wing populism, a handful of nominally moderate Likudniks have grown tired of him, even if they have little disagreement with his execution of the war.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Opinion Israel Longer Live Sword


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