The controversy surrounding the Hamas ceasefire is rumoured to have contributed to the recent resignation of minister Avigdor Lieberman. A recognition of reality and leadership or capitulation to terrorism? This question was raised by Lieberman when addressing Netanyahu’s choice for a Hamas ceasefire, after months of border skirmishes around the Gaza strip. The controversy surrounding Both sides of the conflict are running out of patience and calls for a hawkish approach from the Israeli side have increased even leading to public demonstrations against Netanyahu’s policies.
Lieberman’s right-wing Yisrael Beitenu supports the Likud Party, led by president Netanyahu. In 2009 Netanyahu’s has claimed to look for a two-state solution as long as the Palestinians promise to prove no threat to Israel’s existence. Lieberman on the other hand, is less in favour of the two-state solution. The current situation is however far from a peaceful coexistence between two nations. Last week’s fighting is reported by BBC as the most intense since the 50-day war in 2014
Lieberman’s resignation as leaves Netanyahu with one seat to uphold his majority in the parliament. In Israel, one can serve as a minister and be a MP at the same time which is different from the situation in for example The Netherlands. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Interior Minister Arye Deri both called for an early election. Earlier elections are inevitable but Netanyahu seems to be in denial, even releasing a press statement that new elections are not expected. An earlier dissolution of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) is however not unlikely given the circumstances.
Lieberman’s resignation is not unexpected and his ideas have previously clashed with fellow parliamentarians. His populist rhetoric and calls for a more straightforward approach to Palestinian violence find clear resonance with the Israeli people but the military officials are more sceptic. An excessive amount of death and agony have made them reluctant to unnecessary bloodshed on both sides. Lieberman, however is incentivised by Naftali Bennet from the anti-Palestinian right-wing party, Jewish Home
According to the polls, Lieberman’s popularity has not increased despite his populist approach. Sharon Gal, a journalist and former Yisrael Beitenu Knesset member expressed her dismay of Lieberman’s apathetic approach. The Post suggested that Lieberman’s resignation was a response to Gal’s accusations by Lieberman trying to prove that he is not behaving in a callous way. The polls skyrocketed in favour of his party after his departure. Some might call this political opportunism.
The question is what happens when the Israeli’s have to go to the ballot box. Will populism trump a more diplomatic and what some would call- rational approach? The recent developments in Israel only show that populism is spreading across Western democracies. Israel might follow Brazil and the U.S. next in line. Other right-wing politicians such as Bennet are eager to fill the gap that Lieberman left and Likud’s declining popularity opens doors to an insecure future for Israel
The consequences for an enduring peace between Israel and Palestinian people could be adverse if the right-wing parties are able to get a majority after the election and manage to put their ideas in practice. The US-Israel relationship, the position Jewish community in the U.S, border peace and the response from the Arab countries will all become uncertain if Israel will pursue a more hardline, right-wing approach. The election results and the decisions made by the Knesset in the near future have a huge influence on Israel’s international standing and the choice between peace and war.