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Sabra Express | Losing Grip

Recap:

Facing a surge of high-profile disputes within his coalition, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged his political partners to stop "petty politics."

 

The Context:

·      The Gaza war began after Hamas's October 7th attack on Israel, which resulted in 1,200 Israeli deaths and 253 hostages taken. The US now believes as few as 50 hostages are still alive in Gaza and over 300 Israeli soldiers have been killed. According to the Hamas-run health ministry, deaths in Gaza exceed 37,000, though this number includes Hamas militants and over 10,000 unaccounted individuals.

·      Nine months into the war, Israel has made tactical progress in dismantling much of Hamas's military infrastructure in Gaza. However, it is unlikely Israel will achieve the "total victory" promised by Netanyahu. The looming war in the North is expected to be more intense than the Gaza war since Hezbollah commands the world's 8th largest weapons stockpile. Tens of thousands have been evacuated from the north since late 2023 and are internally displaced.

·      Last week, former Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, a member of Netanyahu's war cabinet for eight months and seen by many Western and Arab governments as a moderating force in Israeli politics, resigned [1]. Gantz believes Israel could afford to declare an end to the Gaza war, retrieve the hostages, and refocus on distancing Hezbollah from its northern border [2]. Netanyahu has faced criticism for not articulating a clear post-war plan, fearing it might anger his coalition and potentially topple his government.

·      Internal divisions within Netanyahu’s ideologically diverse coalition threaten to bring down the government. Netanyahu disbanded the war cabinet rather than include far-right coalition partners Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, a clear rebuke and show of no confidence in these key coalition members [3]. Key Likud MKs oppose the ultra-Orthodox enlistment law, seeing it as perpetuating exemptions for the Haredi community despite IDF manpower shortages. This week Netanyahu withdrew the “rabbi bill” from the Knesset agenda due to lack of support, prompting threats from Haredi parties to leave the coalition. The bill would’ve given Shas the power to appoint hundreds of rabbis to posts as municipal rabbis [4].

 

Conversation Points:

·      Will Gantz's departure increase international pressure on Netanyahu?

·      Will early elections help or hurt Israel’s political situation?

·      Do Israel’s internal divisions affect how its enemies perceive it?

·      How long can Netanyahu hold together a coalition of such disparate ideologies?

 

Notes:

2.        Netanyahu dissolves war cabinet but plans to keep far right sidelined, Shira Rubin, Kyle Melnick and Miriam Berger, Washington Post, June 17th, 2024

3.        A coalition in trouble: Israel's government is tumbling down editorial, Jerusalem Post, June 20th, 2024

 

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