Ceasefire won't end Netanyahu's battles on the political front

By Anshel Pfeffer, July 24, 2014
Heartfelt views: Netanyahu  with military and political advisers

Heartfelt views: Netanyahu with military and political advisers

A political battle awaits Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the moment a ceasefire with Hamas will be on the table. The Israeli security cabinet, which will be the forum where the proposal is voted on, will be split on whether to accept a truce or continue advancing into Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu resisted calls from within his coalition for a ground offensive for the first 10 days of Operation Protective Edge and gave the order only after Hamas refused the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and the IDF general staff urged action to deal with the extensive tunnel system they feared Hamas would use to launch attacks across the border on Israeli civilians.

So far, the most strident voice in favour of a much wider campaign - and not stopping - is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who said last week that "the operation must not end until Israel controls all the Gaza Strip." Mr Lieberman has emerged in recent weeks as an internal opposition to the Prime Minister within the coalition but Mr Netanyahu's Likud colleague, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan also said on Tuesday: "I hope we don't have a ceasefire before we destroy the threat of the tunnels and rockets." Some ministers have warned they will vote against a ceasefire and even resign if a ceasefire is signed before the IDF believes it has destroyed all the Hamas tunnels.

Mr Netanyahu tried to lower expectations in a statement on Sunday in which he said that "there are targets that can't be achieved just like that, with one attack and that's it. It takes a process."

In the security cabinet, he is backed up by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and centre-left members Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni but he will find it very difficult to reply to his right-wing colleagues who will accuse him of missing the opportunity of destroying Hamas.

It's an aim that many of the Prime Minister's voters support, even though he doesn't believe it's feasible.

Last updated: 2:52pm, July 24 2014