Israel's political split grows

By Anshel Pfeffer, August 7, 2014

With the fighting in Gaza apparently over, Knesset members have begun to acclimatise themselves to a different political landscape.

The split within Likud between centrists and right-wingers has become more pronounced.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, until recently seen as one of the most powerful politicians in Israel, is being marginalised, as his competitor for leadership of the far-right in Israel, Naftali Bennett, is soaring in the polls.

The two ministers whom Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now seems most reliant upon, according to cabinet insiders, are Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, with whom the PM is in constant contact over the military plans, and, perhaps surprisingly, his old rival, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni.

As a former foreign minister, Ms Livni negotiated the ceasefires to the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and Mr Netanyahu has been spending long hours with her discussing Israel's exit-strategy from the current crisis.

Meanwhile, the current foreign minister, Mr Lieberman, is finding himself increasingly left out of the security cabinet. He has even taken to missing the occasional meeting and has not shared a platform with the Prime Minister for weeks - unlike Mr Yaalon, who regularly makes joint statements with the PM.

The defence minister is now Mr Netanyahu's closest ally within Likud.

Likudniks unhapppy with Mr Netanyahu's refusal to "finish off Hamas" have not made the mistake of former deputy defence minister Danny Danon, who was fired three weeks ago after openly attacking the Prime Minister on the issue.

Mr Lieberman will not be fired as he is the leader of a party that is vital for the coalition's survival but he is paying the price for holding two press conferences in the early stages of the conflict in which he attacked Mr Netanyahu.

His party, Yisrael Beiteinu, is languishing in the polls while Habayit Hayehudi is up nearly 50 per cent. This is ascribed to the way party leader Naftali Bennett has led the hard-line right camp in the cabinet while remaining loyal in public to Mr Netanyahu.

Last updated: 4:45pm, August 7 2014