Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry
'Netanyahu and Ya'alon represent dovish wing not only in cabinet, but in entire government'
Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry
Sima Kadmon

Can Netanyahu withstand political pressure?

Analysis: Is the prime minister, who has exercised discretion and moderation for three weeks, about to get dragged into a wide-scale operation he isn't interested in?

The tragic events which took place Monday are the type of events with consciousness-changing abilities. In the morning there were still talks about an ongoing truce; in the evening we were in a completely different story.


In the morning we held fire following a request from Hamas; in the evening we intensified it over Hamas' violations.



There is no argument about one thing: Hamas, which dragged us into this war, is now trying to drag us deep into Gaza.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed a difficult test Monday: Despite the difficult information he received, about the four soldiers killed by a mortar shell and about the terrorist infiltration in Nahal Oz, the prime minister exercised restraint, and his response matched his conduct throughout the entire period.


Once again, he did not make any promises which would not be fulfilled and did not present ambitious goals which would not be achieved. He continued to say what he has said throughout the recent period, things that will not contradict the ceasefire decision, if such a decision is indeed made.


Monday's events did not make things easy for Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who – as difficult as it may be to believe – represent the dovish wing not only in the security cabinet, but in the entire government. The prime minister is under huge pressure these days as it is. Public opinion polls reveal that there is an inconceivable consensus among the public about continuing the war.


There is no other way to interpret it but that the public believes that ending the war at this time will yield an unsatisfactory result, especially in light of the high number of victims among the soldiers. It's unfortunate that we never had such a consensus here when there were talks about peace.


The public pressure on the prime minister is not an easy thing, particularly because he is a person who considers surveys as highly important, sometimes too high.


But the public pressure is not the only pressure Netanyahu is subject to. On the one hand, the pressure from Obama and the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire, and on the other hand, the pressure from cabinet ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, who were joined Monday evening by the Likud ministers, from Gideon Sa'ar and Yisrael Katz to Limor Livnat and Silvan Shalom, who are demanding that the operation be expanded.


I believe that we are witnessing a precedent in this area too: Ministers publicly speaking against the prime minister and defense minister's stance in the middle of a war.


Even before Monday's two incidents, right-wing ministers leveled harsh criticism at the prime minister over three wasted weeks, arguing that the IDF did not deal Hamas a strong enough blow and that Israel was leaving the war without sufficient achievements.


One can only guess what was said Monday night in the cabinet, which was supposed to convene to discuss a ceasefire, and the amount of pressure exerted on the prime minister and defense minister there.


So far, Netanyahu and Ya'alon have withstood this pressure. Netanyahu has received a lot of praise even from his rivals, for his non-political considerations. The question is what will happen now. Is the person who exercised discretion and moderation for three weeks about to get dragged into a wide-scale operation he isn't interested in?


In 1982 it happened to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, who embarked on an operation with defined goals and found himself in the outskirts of Beirut. Netanyahu's dilemma today is between moving slowly and occupying.


Should he remove the IDF as quickly as possible, or send it even deeper? Should he stick to the goals he set at the start of the operation, or give in to those pressuring him to expand and destruct? Is he taking into account not only the unbearable price both sides will pay if the operation is expanded, but also its pointlessness?


And does he remember just how misleading the public opinion can be? How it can turn over in an instant? And just how traitorous all those ministers, who are now calling on him to expand the operation, can be? Let's see where they'll all be when something goes wrong. When a disaster happens, God forbid, and the full responsibility will fall on the prime minister's shoulders.


Monday's events were serious, and mostly sad. It's a terrible disaster which joins other disasters Israel has been hit with in the past two weeks. But this incident must not affect the goals set by the Israeli government at the start of the operation.


We have not been defeated. And when one sees the images from Gaza, it definitely does not look like a tie. There will be no victory. We will not see the Hamas rule collapse. And all the rest will anyway not be achieved through force, but only through agreements and understandings.


פרסום ראשון: 07.29.14, 20:03
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