Early elections or not: Netanyahu must choose


Calling early elections or paying the price to save his coalition: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces tough choices after the resignation of his defense minister denouncing the Gaza ceasefire.

The fate of the most right-wing government in Israel's history seems to be largely dependent on Netanyahu's decision whether or not to comply with the demands of one of his major rivals, and to attribute to his Education, Naftali Bennett, the Defense portfolio, made available by the resounding resignation of Avigdor Lieberman.

Lieberman formally resigned in writing on Thursday, his ministry said. But it was Wednesday that he slammed the door, plunging the government into crisis, in the aftermath of Israel's indirect cease-fire with the Islamist movement Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip.

The truce put an end to the worst armed confrontation since the 2014 war in and around the enclave wedged between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.

Between Monday and Tuesday, the day after an Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip went wrong, Palestinian groups fired hundreds of rockets and mortar shells at Israel. The Israeli army fought back by striking dozens of Palestinian positions.

Fourteen Palestinians were killed by Israeli gunfire and strikes. The hostilities caused the death of an Israeli officer and another Palestinian working in Israel, killed by a rocket.

After months of tension and several escalations, the protagonists have rarely appeared closer to a fourth conflict, before the announcement of the ceasefire on Egyptian intercession.

The ultra-nationalist Defense Minister, a strong supporter of Hamas in power in Gaza, spoke of "capitulation to terrorism" and called for legislative "as soon as possible".

– On the razor wire –

The deadline is normally November 2019, but for months has floated a perfume of early elections.

With the withdrawal of the small party of Mr. Lieberman -Israel Beiteinou- the coalition, Mr. Netanyahu only has a majority of one vote out of 120 in the parliament (Knesset), and must decide: pronounce the dissolution, as it has the authority to do so, in which case voters must be called to the polls within 90 days. Or try to save the coalition, at least for the moment.

His party, the Likud, said on Wednesday that Netanyahu would take over the defense portfolio (in addition to those already detained in Foreign Affairs and Health) and that elections were not necessary.

The prime minister will continue his consultations on Thursday, Likud said.

But the commentators do not give much to the survival of the coalition. They do not see Mr. Netanyahu rule with a minimum majority and difficult to control for a year, as he had experienced the cost in 2015-2016, before precisely to convince Mr. Lieberman to join him.

Above all, they can not imagine conceding the defense portfolio to Mr. Bennett.

The religious nationalist party of this one indicated that it left him little choice: it will be the Defense or the polling stations.

– Question of timing –

"This government has no reason to continue to exist" if the Jewish Home does not get this ministry "to change the security policy, allow Israel to take the initiative and restore its deterrent," said the religious nationalist party Wednesday night, in an unveiled criticism of government policy.

Bennett shares with Lieberman a predilection for the iron glove against Hamas. Both members of the security cabinet, the restricted forum responsible for the most sensitive issues, they are also at the head of competing parties. They spent their time getting to know about Gaza, among other things.

The seeming ultimatum of the Jewish Home overshadows the eclectic interests of other coalition partners, who also have a say, such as ultra-Orthodox or Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. The latter is unlikely to approve the appointment of Mr. Bennett.

For Netanyahu, timing can be essential, not just because he is about to break the longevity record of a prime minister – he has been in office since 2009.

Although it still seems unrivaled, Gazan events in recent months seem to have damaged its reputation as the best guarantor of the country's security. The people on the outskirts of Gaza have taken to the streets to denounce a ceasefire that leaves them, according to them, at the mercy of the next Palestinian bursts.

A survey released on Thursday indicates that 74 percent of respondents are not satisfied with Netanyahu's response to the latest bout of fever.


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