Gaza tensions threaten chances for minority Israeli government

READ IN:    עברית Afif Abu Much November 12, 2019 – Article Summary – AL MONITOR – Most of the Arab-Israeli public supports toppling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at any cost, but the latest rockets from Gaza might complicate this mission. Tensions between Israel and Gaza escalated the morning of Nov. 12 with the assassination of senior Islamic Jihad member Baha Abu al-Atta and a retaliatory barrage of rocket fire on Israeli towns in the south, the lowlands and metropolitan Tel Aviv.

As it happened, the escalation comes in the midst of coalition talks and while members of the Joint List are considering supporting a Gantz-led minority government. One might wonder whether the Joint List’s Knesset members remain free to reconsider their interests as Israeli Arabs who want to integrate into Israeli society by offering outside support to the minority government headed by Blue and White’s Benny Gantz. Or does it mean that they have shifted their focus to their brothers and sisters in Gaza, leaving the possibility of a minority government to collapse?

Despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz’ attempts to form a new coalition, the option of a minority government headed by Gantz keeps hovering in the background. It got a big boost late last week. Just moments before the start of the Sabbath on Nov. 8, Netanyahu surprised everyone by appointing New Right senior Naftali Bennett as defense minister. It is hard to forget how critical the Likud was of Bennett just one year ago. The party went so far as to declare Dec. 18, “The security of Israel rises above politics, and the Defense Ministry is not some way to find a job for Naftali Bennett.” It is obvious to everyone that the sole purpose of the appointment was to prevent Netanyahu’s 55-seat bloc from falling apart.

Then, on the night of Nov. 9, it was Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman’s turn to steal the show. The wildcard of the election dropped a bombshell of his own, in the form of an ultimatum to Gantz and Netanyahu. His started with a proposed compromise that Gantz accept President Reuven Rivlin’s guidelines for a unity government and that Netanyahu abandon his bloc. Liberman said that if either side rejected this compromise, he would immediately throw his support behind the other. It looks like he is determined to avoid a third round of elections no matter the cost, and this ultimatum is his way of preparing to blame Netanyahu and the Likud if he decides to join forces with Blue and White.

“The current situation is leading to new elections, which is the worst possible option,” Knesset member Eli Avidar (Yisrael Beitenu) told Al-Monitor. “It is now up to us to choose the least bad option.”
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