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Israel: Will The Palestinians Topple the Premier?

Israel: Will The Palestinians Topple the Premier?
Last week’s ceasefire between the Palestinians and Israel catalyzed a fast-moving chain reaction of political developments that saw the Defense Minister’s surprise resignation set the stage for possible early elections next spring that might ultimately topple four-time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It would be a stretch to say that the Palestinians foresaw this scenario when they responded with rocket fire to a deadly Israeli raid in Gaza, though they certainly must have expected that Israel would retaliate with crushing force. What nobody predicted, however, was that Netanyahu would suddenly agree to a ceasefire that proved so controversial to his Cabinet that it prompted Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman's resignation and threw Israeli domestic politics into chaos.

The Prime Minister has since struggled to retain his coalition's ultra-slim majority in the Knesset, arguing that early elections are irresponsible during such a sensitive time for Israel's security and imploring his partners to simply wait until next November's scheduled ones instead. On the topic of security, however, Lieberman warned that Netanyahu was "feeding the monster and if we don't stop it from getting stronger and gathering force, we will have Hezbollah's twin in a year", suggesting that the premier himself is the one who's soft on Israel's security and is irresponsibly endangering it with the latest ceasefire. This dramatic statement positions Lieberman to the far right of Netanyahu, who's considered by many to be a center-right politician, thus further polarizing Israeli domestic politics.

Netanyahu already has enough of a challenge dealing with Israel's leftist opposition, so the defection of the right-wing hawks from his coalition could lead to an electoral free-for-all that could dramatically shake up the government. Furthermore, this looming uncertainty is taking place amidst the backdrop of the Mideast's geopolitical transformation as Turkey positions itself as the Palestinians' international champion, Russia returned to the region as a force to be reckoned with, and Trump prepares to unveil his so-called "Deal of the Century" for restarting the Palestinian peace process. At such a sensitive time, the last thing that Israel needs is to be domestically destabilized, so the question becomes one of whether it's better off holding early elections now or trying to weather the storm till November.

Casey Washer, who teaches Israeli history and Hebrew at a Jewish private school stopped by to share his views.

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