Last November, Avigdor Lieberman resigned as Israel’s defense minister when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to reject Lieberman’s plan for a military operation in Gaza and agree to a ceasefire with Hamas instead. At the time, Lieberman called the ceasefire a “surrender to terrorism”, and of course it didn’t last very long at all. Hamas has continued to bombard Israel with rockets in the months since then, and this has once again brought Israel and Hamas to the brink of war. But everything was on hold until Tuesday’s election, and it appears that the outcome of that election is going to make war with Hamas much, much more likely.
According to the exit polls, the Blue and White party led by Benny Gantz and Netanyahu’s Likud will win about the same number of parliamentary seats. But neither of them will be able to come close to forming a majority without Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party, and that makes Lieberman Israel’s new “kingmaker”. The following comes from the BBC…
Exit polls following Israel’s second general election in five months suggest the result is too close to call.
The centrist Blue and White alliance of former military chief Benny Gantz is projected to win between 32 and 34 seats, and PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party 30 to 33 seats.
Yisrael Beiteinu party leader Avigdor Lieberman may end up being kingmaker.
This gives Lieberman an extraordinary amount of leverage, and he has already stated that he plans to use that leverage to force Likud and the Blue and White party into “a national-unity government”. The following comes from the Jerusalem Post…
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman promised on Tuesday night that his party would fulfil its campaign vow to ensure the establishment of a national-unity government without the ultra-Orthodox and religious-Zionist parties.
“We have only one option. A liberal, national, broad unity government made of Yisrael Beytenu, Likud, and Blue and White,” said Liberman speaking above raucous cheers of jubilation at the party’s election party late Tuesday night.
Don’t be misled by Lieberman’s use of terms such as “liberal”, because the truth is that he is the number one war hawk in all of Israeli politics.
In fact, he makes Netanyahu look like a dove in comparison. When Netanyahu refused to go to war with Hamas last November, Lieberman promptly resigned as defense minister. And since that time, he has been telling anyone that would listen what needs to be done in Gaza.
For example, he made the following statements in March…
“Today, when the military enters Gaza, it will have significantly better capabilities than the Second Lebanon War. But in the end, when you embark on such a campaign, you want to ensure the safety of the soldiers,” he said. “Terror always has a bottom. In order to dry out terror, we must reach the critical mass. You have to kill thousands, arrest thousands more, and the rest will disperse.”
But, he said, “The reality in Gaza is that the group has terror infrastructures with military capabilities, and this is a very problematic situation. We have to destroy the military infrastructure in Gaza, and it will not be by a political move or only by airstrikes.”
And he has been very outspoken about the fact that Netanyahu “personally torpedoed” his plans “to deal with Gaza”…
Former Defense Minister MK Avigdor Liberman said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu personally torpedoed plans to strike Gaza during a significant escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas in November.
“Netanyahu personally torpedoed the plans,” the Chairman of Yisrael Beytenu told Ben Caspit at the Maariv Security Conference on Wednesday. “We have enough tools to deal with Gaza and I had a full plan.”
In this election, it looks like Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party will roughly double the number of seats they hold in parliament, and I guarantee you that Lieberman will not join any coalition unless he is assured that Israel will invade Gaza.
In the days leading up to the election, I think that Netanyahu realized that he was losing votes to Lieberman, and that may be why he said that it looks like Israel has “no other choice” other than to invade Gaza. In the end, that didn’t stop many Israelis from voting for Lieberman instead, and now Lieberman has more political power than ever.
If Netanyahu had moved to crush Hamas earlier, he might not be fighting for his political future now. The Israeli people have grown very weary of rockets constantly being fired at them from the south, and an increasing number of Israelis want someone that will take decisive action. So it is not exactly a surprise that someone like Lieberman has experienced a surge in popularity.
So what should we expect next?
After the formation of a government, we should expect Israel to launch a military operation inside Gaza at some point after the upcoming Jewish holidays. Of course this would have the potential of sparking a much wider regional conflict, but the Israeli people are simply not going to put up with the endless rocket attacks coming from Gaza any longer.
And of course all of this is happening at the same time that a military conflict between the United States and Iran is potentially looming. World War 3 could literally erupt at any time, and once it starts, the Middle East will never be the same again.
For Hamas, the Israeli election could not have gone any worse.
If either Likud or the Blue and White party had won a landslide victory, there would have been a slight possibility that war could have been avoided.
But now Lieberman is in the catbird seat, and that means that Gaza is about to get flattened.