Israel’s emergency government close to collapse as Gaza war continues

T. Belman. I disagree with the title and the sub-title. Remember if Ganz leaves the emergency government it will still be in effect as Saar and his party remain.  If Saar also leaves , it will signal the end of the “emergency government” but the original government with 64 seats will remain. But I don’t think Saar will leave.  Saar hopes to merge his party with Likud and replace Bibi as the leader and prime minister. He is even positioning himself to the right of Netanyahu.  The public wants right-wing policies. All other leaders stand to the left.

The question is no longer whether an election will take place in 2024, but rather when in 2024.

By YANIR COZIN, JPOST    JANUARY 19, 2024

‘The Americans have realized that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is incapacitated because of the political situation he is in,” a senior official from one of Israel’s opposition parties informed me last week.

“In fear of voters’ reaction, moreover, Netanyahu has even gone as far as to conceal his transition to Stage 3 of the war not only from his own war cabinet, but also from the general public.”

Netanyahu’s political predicament is already straining the Biden administration’s patience, with a growing sense that they are providing considerable support without receiving anything from him in return.

While the Americans are compelled to take Netanyahu’s political affairs under consideration, he, in turn, is unwilling to extend the same goodwill gesture toward the Democratic candidate currently residing in the White House, who is facing a challenging and tumultuous reelection campaign.

There is a reason why John Kirby, the US’s National Security Council spokesperson, stated this week that Israel has already shifted to a low-intensity conflict in the North and is expected to undergo a similar transformation in regard to the South.

This completely contradicts Netanyahu’s assertion the previous day, in which he claimed that warfare has intensified in the southern region of the Gaza Strip. The Americans are exposing Netanyahu’s bluff, despite his attempts to keep the Israeli public in partial darkness concerning the way this war is being conducted.

The butterfly effect of the intensifying voices of unease emanating from Washington is creating ripples that are impacting Jerusalem’s political landscape. Even at this stage of the war, marked by slow progress and by military achievements that are not apparent to an untrained eye, there is room for freedom of thought in terms of the political possibilities that could follow.

Gantz’s influence over the war is diminishing

Gantz knew what he was getting into. He was called naïve at first, but this is a man who was already stung once before by the political scorpion that is Benjamin Netanyahu, when Gantz joined the Covid unity government. He came into this current government with eyes wide open, hopeful that after October 7, something might have changed in Israel’s most seasoned politician.

It had, but that did not last long. Presently, many in the political sphere believe that Gantz is devising his exit strategy. When will he leave? To answer that question, we must understand the power dynamics within the government, specifically within the war cabinet.

Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, a minister without a portfolio, joined the emergency government to embody the well-worn political slogan of ‘pulling their weight,’ contributing their share, and actively participating in the war effort.

Both entered the military arena, securing two of the five seats in the national emergency unity government’s war cabinet, and have emerged as two of the most pivotal players in the war’s management. However, now that we have marked the 100th day since they joined, it seems that their influence on the war’s management is diminishing.

There are several examples of this, the most prominent of which revolves around the hostages’ release. It has been more than 50 days since the last hostage was set free, and it seems like Israel is limping along, with little sparks of hope for the 136 hostages who are still being held captive in Gaza in tunnels and secret locations, rising, then falling. Every few weeks, Hamas releases additional sadistic videos which often disclose the tragic news that a few more hostages have been murdered.

Eisenkot believes that it is time to stop and consider where the war machine needs to be led next, and whether the victories Israel has achieved so far have reached a point that justifies considering a ceasefire in exchange for the release of the hostages.

He has argued that at the very least, this option should be explored.

“We need to stop lying to ourselves,” Eisenkot states. “We must be courageous and aim for an acceptable deal that will bring all of the hostages’ home. Time is running out, and each passing day is putting their lives in further jeopardy. We cannot stick blindly to the same strategy while the hostages are still in captivity. Now is the critical stage in which bold decisions must be made. Otherwise, we may as well throw in the towel.”

Up until now, Eisenkot has been perceived as a somewhat unremarkable politician, not drawing much attention due to his perceived neutrality and lack of charisma. In recent weeks, however, he has been gaining prominence, as he articulates opinions that resonate with public sentiment. In my opinion, if a popularity poll were to be conducted now, Eisenkot, who recently buried his son who was killed in Gaza, would garner high approval ratings.

Returning to discussing the war cabinet, Eisenkot and Gantz are up against Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Netanyahu, who believe that exerting military force is the key to overcoming Hamas and securing the release of our hostages, echoing the strategy that preceded the previous hostage release.

Yet, 50 days have passed without significant progress. This issue could turn into an Archimedean point that could force Gantz and Eisenkot to withdraw from the government.

Meanwhile, both feel that they still hold sway over decisions, and as long as IDF soldiers are still fighting in Gaza, the war must go on.

Furthermore, stepping down at this juncture carries significant political risks, since such a decision could be interpreted as Gantz and Eisenkot escaping responsibility, which could critically damage the number of seats the currently popular National Unity party could secure in the future.

Netanyahu, of course, is acutely aware of these considerations, and has been actively working to exert control. As we have depicted in the past, Netanyahu is the type of politician who never stops planning for the day after. That is, their day after.

To achieve this, he has been focusing on strengthening his coalition, as what is acceptable during normal times, is not so during wartime, since the prime minister has found little room to make a move in the cabinet.

While war cabinet meetings have been scheduled to address what the day after the war will look like for Israel, a comprehensive discussion on this matter has yet to take place. In fact, senior IDF officials have remarked that if the government does not take a stance soon, the IDF will be forced to return to areas that it had already conquered, then relinquished.

Netanyahu is postponing discussion on the day after 

Why is Netanyahu postponing this discussion?

He gives a different excuse each time. Once it was because of ministers Miri Regev’s and David Amselem’s dispute with the IDF’s chief of staff. Another time, he claimed that meeting would interfere with another, the more important issue of Israel defending its case at The Hague.

Netanyahu feared that ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir would advocate for the resettlement of the Gaza Strip and exiling all of the Palestinians there, which could undermine Netanyahu’s official policy, which states that Israel has no intention of forcing Palestinians to leave Gaza.

I am analyzing this issue from a political standpoint, as Gantz for weeks now has been advocating holding the discussion on the war in Gaza and its implications for Israel, the country’s economy, and the education of our children. Each time, this request has been denied.

The prime minister’s favorite verb is ‘postpone.’ Why do today what can be postponed until tomorrow, or the next day, or some other unspecified date in the future? Therefore, despite Gantz being in the war cabinet, Netanyahu is not relying on him and his people to vote in favor of far-reaching proposals, and instead is clinging to his right-wing base. The day Gantz resigns from the government, Netanyahu will still need these individuals in his camp.

This past Wednesday, perhaps in an attempt to cool Gantz down, two items were published in the media almost simultaneously. It was reported that a senior Likud official had proposed to Yair Lapid and also to Avigdor Lieberman to join the government in exchange for prestigious portfolios, even suggesting they could have Ben-Gvir’s role.

Both turned down the offer, each for his own reasons: Lapid because he is unwilling to sit in a government led by Netanyahu; Liberman since the Likud refused to let him join the war cabinet.

The fact that both news items were published almost simultaneously raises the possibility that there are individuals within the Likud who initiated this move as a signal to Gantz that there are alternatives to replace him should he decide to abandon ship.

Nevertheless, very quickly, like many other recent maneuvers orchestrated by Netanyahu, the swift rejections from Lapid and Liberman underscored the likelihood that this was yet another spin.

The bottom line is: Will this emergency government last much longer? The prevailing understanding is that it will not, and with the diminishing prospects of a new hostage deal, the likelihood of the emergency government breaking up increases. Recent rumors about serious contacts between the US and Qatar are one of the reasons Gantz and Eisenkot are choosing to remain in the government, as without them, they believe there would not be much chance for a new deal to release the hostages.

Moreover, and this seems to be true, the two of them are asking themselves, what difference would it make if they resigned. Would that lead to a new election? Would it bring down the government? Even if Gantz and Eisenkot step down, Gideon Sa’ar, the leader of the New Hope party, which is part of the National Unity bloc, would most likely remain.

Returning to Gantz and Eisenkot, they are well aware that no tangible opportunities await them in the private sector, and their current popularity in the polls could wane and eventually dissipate. Meanwhile, Likud MKs are grumbling about their party’s leadership, and yet the war, their seat and position prevent them from shifting their support away from Netanyahu.

The current political landscape indicates that if the emergency government with the National Unity bloc were to collapse, Netanyahu’s 64-member bloc would still be able to return to power.

Only a robust internal opposition from within Likud could potentially break apart the narrow right-wing government, and lead to elections or the formation of an alternative government with a different leader from within Likud, who could garner support from both within the Likud, as well as from opposition parties. At present, the latter scenario seems unlikely, and almost everyone is talking about elections.

The question is no longer whether an election will take place in 2024, but rather when in 2024. Most coalition members have no desire to hold an election anytime soon, since they already have their budget for the year, have nailed down good positions, and are in no hurry to let the people have their say, even though so many Israelis are hurting now.

Everyone, except perhaps for Ben-Gvir, who despite his colossal failure to curb crime in Israel is continuing to climb in the polls. It seems that the ongoing war and the distribution of weapons to emergency standby squads are working in his favor.

In the end, a new hostage release plan has the potential to profoundly alter the political landscape, keeping Gantz and Eisenkot in the government, and prompting a strategic shift in the war’s management and in new objectives.

This would, however, necessitate that the prime minister engage in what he dislikes most: Making decisive and difficult decisions. Netanyahu prefers to hold long-winded discussions, take lots of time to think through all scenarios and refrain from taking conclusive action.

While this works well in politics, it is much less effective when people’s lives hang in the balance. In other words, a new hostage deal could lead to the unintended side effect of strengthening the emergency government, but this would just be a side effect, and the primary goal is to bring all the hostages home safely, alive, and well.

January 20, 2024 | 4 Comments »

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4 Comments / 4 Comments

  1. The indigestible dis government is better gone than pretending to exist. What will happen “after”? Mayhem. The elites… whatever will have zo accept elections results. Or will have zo accept….I

  2. I don’t believe a word of this article. The author is clearly on the left and biased towards a cease fire. I think he is manipulating and distorting the facts.

  3. There are two issues at stake: internal politics and foreign politics. This artucle attempts to sddress both. As far as foreign policy gies, Israel should take a leaf out of the Palestinian notebook and make a deal she has no intention of keeping. On internal politics, Netanyahu should agree to step down as soon as we have peacd on all fronts. That might help internal like external friends and foes to think about a quick solution instead of trying to get rid of him.

  4. Ted

    Not as you say RIGHT WING POLITICS

    Saying that alone you had victory to the traitors of Zionism

    It is absolutely not YOUR label

    I call it to save the Jewish State or Nation

    Ted YOU INTRODUCE DIVISION INTO ZIONISM

    An absolute problem for Zion