Understanding the tumultuous week of Israeli politics
A week of political unrest left Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a razor-thin majority in the Knesset which brings the government closer to the possibility of collapse and early elections.
The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is comprised of 120 members. The prime minister, in order to maintain his hold on the government, must have a majority of at least 61 members in his coalition. Right now, with the withdrawal of the defense minister’s party from the coalition last week, Netanyahu’s majority has been reduced from 66 to 61.
While the government can keep running on a slim majority, if another party withdraws from the coalition it would be dissolved and early elections would be scheduled. Currently the coalition is comprised of Netanyahu’s Likud party, Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Kulanu, Shas and United Torah Judaism (UTJ). Yisrael Beytenu, the party of former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, had five members in the coalition until Liberman resigned last week, reducing the stability of the coalition.
This present government was sworn in on May 14, 2015. The next election is scheduled for November 2019, but could happen earlier if another party leaves the coalition. Netanyahu has been the prime minister for four non-consecutive terms.
After Liberman resigned last week, political jockeying began immediately. Education Minister Naftali Bennett threatened to pull his Bayit Yehudi party if he wasn’t given the defense minister position.
But Netanyahu managed to cast the issue in his favor. He accused Avigdor Liberman of deserting the nation’s key security post at a crucial time. He called Bennett selfish for making his demands. He claimed that because he was privy to all the information he was “obligated to complete” in order to ensure Israel’s security.
“As I said yesterday, we are still in a military campaign. During this sensitive security time, it is irresponsible to bring down the government,” he said. “Even if people try, we will continue to work for Israel’s security.”
Liberman’s resignation came after Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza, launched nearly 500 rockets at Israel in one day. He called Israel’s response, by reaching a ceasefire, “weak.”
“What happened yesterday with the ceasefire with Hamas was a surrender to terror. There is no other word for it,” Liberman said.
Netanyahu now holds the position of prime minister, foreign minister and defense minister.
Kehila News spoke to Messianic believers around Israel regarding these recent events. Although not everyone agreed, the general consensus was that early elections would be harmful, but a stronger response to Hamas would’ve been helpful. Here are some of their responses:
“I think this was the right decision not to have early elections and Bibi (nickname for Benjamin Netanyahu) has absolutely come up on top. My feelings are one thing and my knowledge, that I don’t know what the PM knows, make me trust the cease fire. Beside possibly many casualties and the fact that Gaza is Judah’s inheritance. We do not want to control Gaza or turn it over to the PA. We are between a rock and a hard place, so we will see.” E from Jerusalem
“I do not see any benefit for an early election. It’s a waste of time, money and increase of confusion. I do foresee that in the next election, Bibi will lose much of his power. I do think that the need to crush Hamas is long overdue. This is a brood of vipers which enslaves the people they control. The only reason it has not been done, and we continue to tolerate rockets fired at our civilians, is that we have been manipulated by world public opinion. We fear that if we use our power to break the power of the terrorists, that the world will come against us. I believe there were other factors which prevented Bibi from striking them.” D from the Galilee
“I was against the withdrawal from Gaza in the first place (when Israel removed Jewish residents in 2005). What was the result? We’ve had a wide variety of weapons raining upon us every time Hamas (and Iran or Qatar, or whoever is pulling the strings) thought it expedient to do so. I’ve thought that the Israeli government has shown too much restraint EVERY SINGLE TIME we’ve been attacked. (My strong feeling about that is the only reason I voted for Bennett.) I’m displeased that Netanyahu has kept the defense portfolio for himself, and would have liked him to appoint Bennett. That said, I’m aware there are other influencing factors that we are kept in the dark about. I concede that it’s possible it’s not just cowardice that keeps Israel from retaliating to such a degree and in such a way that no one would dare to attack us in the future. Or maybe it is.” J from Jerusalem
“I am In favor of early elections, although I do think that Israel should have agreed to a cease fire. But, sadly, there will be more opportunities to take out Hamas. It’s most important to remember and to apply: 1Tim. 2:1,2 – I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” H from Haifa
“In terms of early elections, since Bennet reconsidered, it’s good the way it is. I would have liked to have seen us move against Hamas, but I allow for the fact that there might have been compelling reasons I am unaware of which persuaded the government not to do so.” C from Jerusalem
“If this is a political tactic in order to pull the government right and then return to work … it seems a bit extreme. If this is from God to bring down the government and transfer it to Yair Lapid, that could work. But in my perspective Lapid will be more leftwing. In the meantime 1. it weakens the government 2. divides the people 3. belittles the prime minister 4. strengthens Hamas immensely and 5. brings us to another round of elections that are a waste of time and money.” A from Jerusalem
Miracle spares the lives of 50 Israeli soldiers
During Hanukkah, the winter holiday that commemorates the Hebrew victory over the Syrian dictator, Antiochus Epiphanes, we say, “nes godal kara poe,”which means, “a great miracle happened here.” It is fitting that 50 Israelis soldiers were singing one of the great Hanukkah songs, when they encountered a miracle of their own.
Many of you have seen the carcass of the burning bus that took a direct hit from an anti-tank missile from Hamas. This is a severe escalation. Not since 2014 has Hamas used one of their Russian-made, anti-tank missiles. For the most part, Israel has had to contend with tens of thousands of horribly inaccurate rockets. They have no guiding system beyond point and shoot. And when one is actually on target, our Iron Dome has a 90% accuracy rate of taking them down before they can cause damage.
Miracle of Timing
However, an anti-tank missile is much more accurate and the video of it hitting the bus is chilling. No one inside could have survived. However, here is what you may not have heard.
Minutes before the missile hit its mark, the bus was full,with 30 barely-passed-their-teens, IDF soldiers. They had no idea that any minute, their bus would become an inferno. They began to sing the famous Hanukkah song that speaks of the miracles that took place as God protected Israel. It boldly proclaims: “Jerusalem, our capital, the heart of Israel.”
Moments after all 50 had exited the bus, a Hamas missile hit it, turning it instantly into a ball of fire. One soldier, who was standing close to the bus, was seriously injured. Fortunately, doctors expect him to survive. Had they been in the bus at the time, all of them would have surely died or have been seriously burned. Of course, Hamas aired a video of the explosion, declaring that they killed and injured many soldiers. In fact, it was the Arab bus driver who set the record straight.
This bus had an Arab driver. In his shock while being treated (thank God he lived), he said, “God loves you. I just let off 50 soldiers from the bus. A minute later the bus was hit. 60 seconds earlier and you would have had 50 dead soldiers.” https://t.co/m7hhJRl35A
— Shoshanna Keats Jaskoll (@skjask) November 12, 2018
A Blessing for Both Sides
I cannot even imagine the response from Israel, if the soldiers were still on the bus. This miracle not only benefited Israel, but Gaza as well. Many Palestinian lives were saved. It makes one wonder if Hamas waited until the bus was empty, before firing. They know full well that the only thing restraining the IDF is the fact that, with all their rockets, they have caused only a few deaths.
The situation is still tense. Israel and Hamas have agreed on a ceasefire. This caused our Hawkish Defense Minister to resign from the government—taking his party with him—bringing Netanyahu’s coalition to the smallest number possible, just 61 members. We will surely have new elections soon.
One thing that is troubling is how Israel’s army allowed an unarmored bus carrying soldiers to get within the scopes of Hamas. This was extremely reckless and, no doubt, it is being discussed amongst the senior leaders of the IDF.
This article originally appeared on Messiah’s Mandate, November 16, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Ron and wife Elana make their home in Tel Aviv. He serves on the pastoral team of Tiferet Yeshua—the Glory of Yeshua—a Tel Aviv-based, Hebrew-speaking Messianic congregation. Ron is a published author with Destiny Image Publishers, having written books like “Identity Theft”, “Leave Me Alone, I’m Jewish” and “The Jerusalem Secret”. Ron is a sought-out conference speaker and shares passionately about the Jewish Roots of the New Testament and God’s broken heart for His ancient people Israel.
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Netanyahu’s two-headed dilemma: Contain Hamas and save his coalition
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, Photo, Facebook
JERUSALEM, Israel – Following the decision to accept a ceasefire with Hamas and the subsequent resignation of Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must now address the resulting division within the coalition and between members of his own Likud party.
After meeting with Netanyahu Thursday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon recommended early elections.
“In the present situation, the best thing for Israeli citizens and the Israeli economy is to go to early elections as soon as possible,” Kahlon said, according to Israeli media reports.
While the Egyptian government and the United Nations both called on Israel to restrain its response to the rocket attacks, Israeli families were once again subjected to incessant air raid sirens and the sound of explosions as they took cover in bomb shelters in their homes and on the street.
Netanyahu’s decision prompted Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party to ask for the defense portfolio, notwithstanding the prime minister’s decision to temporarily fill the vacancy himself. Netanyahu also holds the foreign ministry portfolio along with the premiership.
Initial reports said Bennett threatened to pull his party out of the coalition, forcing the prime minister to dissolve the Knesset and hold new elections within three months.
“A government without deterrence is not a right-wing government,” Jewish Home said in a statement. Without taking responsibility for the national task of changing the security situation together with the prime minister, there is no point in continuing the government’s existence.”
Netanyahu is reportedly meeting with Bennett Thursday to resolve the situation.
Likud MK Yehuda Glick condemned the Jewish Home Party, calling it a “fringe right-wing party” that’s “become an opportunistic party of its leader,” Arutz Sheva reported.
Meanwhile, in what some saw as an effort to defend Netanyahu, senior cabinet minister and fellow Likudnik Tzachi Hanegbi created a fresh headache in an interview with Army Radio Thursday, when he called the two-day rocket assault “minor” because the terrorists didn’t target Tel Aviv.
“The attacks by Hamas were minor, most of the fire was around the Gaza area,” the Times of Israel quoted Hanegbi. Firing rockets at Tel Aviv is a different story.”
According to the report, Hanegbi based his logic on the “tremendous implications” of Tel Aviv’s importance as the hub of Israel’s economy and its proximity to Ben Gurion International Airport.
Netanyahu quickly repudiated Hanegbi’s logic, saying there’s no difference between southern Israel and anywhere else in the country. Members of the opposition also condemned his remarks.
Hanegbi later apologized, saying he didn’t mean to distinguish between the lives of the residents.
“If what I said was misunderstood, I am sorry,” he said in a statement.
For those who’ve been the main target of attacks by Hamas and other Gaza-based Islamic groups, Hanegbi’s comments were like pouring salt on an open wound. On Wednesday, many residents took to the streets to protest the government’s decision.
Hamas, meanwhile, celebrated the ceasefire, calling it a victory against the Zionist occupiers.
This article originally appeared on CBN News, November 15, 2018, and reposted with permission.
Tzippe Barrow is the CBN News Internet Producer - Jerusalem. She and her husband made aliyah (immigrated to Israel) nearly two decades ago. Barrow hopes that providing a biblical perspective of today’s events in Israel will help people in the nations to better understand the centrality of this state and the Jewish people to God’s unfolding plan of redemption for all mankind.
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Israeli Defense minister quits citing ‘surrender’ to terror after ceasefire with Hamas
Israeli Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, announces his resignation during a press conference, Novermber 14, 2018. (Photo: screenshot)
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned today citing the government’s “weak” response to the terrorist organization Hamas and the “excuses” it made in reaching a ceasefire after nearly 500 rockets were launched at Israel in one day.
“What happened yesterday with the ceasefire with Hamas was a surrender to terror. There is no other word for it,” Liberman said.
“What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence,” he said. “To put it lightly, our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us.”
Liberman is head of the Yisrael Beytenu (Israel our Home) party. In announcing his resignation, he demanded elections for the national government be scheduled “as soon as possible.”
“It’s no secret there have been disagreements between the prime minister and myself in recent months,” he said at a press conference. Liberman opposed allowing Hamas officials in Gaza to receive fuel and $15 million from Qatar, which Israel approved. There is no way to verify that cash won’t be diverted to terror purposes, Liberman alleged.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to take on the defense minister’s job until further notice. His office said there is no need for elections at the moment, although other ministers in the coalition are already jockeying for the post. With Liberman’s resignation, Netanyahu’s coalition now holds a slim majority.
Netanyahu defended the ceasefire with Hamas, brokered by Egypt, earlier in the day.
“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said. “Our enemies begged for a ceasefire and they knew very well why.”
The deal drew criticism from within the government as well as from Israelis who live near the Gaza Strip and have been coping with episodes of both sporadic and intense rocket fire for more than a decade.
Liberman’s message will likely resonate in southern Israel after Tuesday’s rocket fire killed one person and injured several and damaged buildings and vehicles.
In the South, hundreds demonstrated after the ceasefire was announced Tuesday evening. Residents were expecting a stronger military response that would put an end to the situation. One woman told reporters Israelis in the South want to be able to sit at a cafe without being concerned with the proximity of a bomb shelter just like the residents of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem do.
Protestors blocked roads and burned tires chanting “Bibi go home,” using the nickname for Netanyahu.
“I’ve been a Likud man for 40 years but I promise I won’t vote Likud anymore. We’re captives of Hamas,” Yohanan Cohen said of the prime minister’s party.
Other politicians supported the protestors and lauded Liberman’s resignation including Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay who called the demonstrations a “justified” response to the government “forsaking” them.
“This is not the time for another fragile truce,” he said. “This is the time for a true diplomatic initiative in Gaza, that will lean on the recommendations of the security establishment.”
He said the government had failed the south by “neglecting” the issue of Gaza since the 2014 war, Operation Protective Edge. The conflict lasted two months and left hundreds of people dead, many of them Gaza residents. Since Israel evacuated all Jewish residents from the Gaza Strip in 2005, rocket fire and other acts of terrorism have become a regular occurrence.
“A month from today the same thing will happen…it doesn’t make sense that our lives are like this,” Sderot resident Reut Bassis told reporters.
PRAYER ALERT: Israel under fire from Gaza as 400 rockets hit the south
Rockets from Gaza over the Israeli southern city of Ashkelon, November 13, 2018 (Photo: screenshot)
Pray for Israelis in southern Israel who just endured the most ever rockets fired at Israel in a single day after Palestinians launched some 400 rockets since Monday.
Israel and Hamas reached an apparent ceasefire Tuesday afternoon, but not before one person was killed and about 20 injured as rockets hit homes, buses, gas lines and shops around southern Israeli communities. Several residences were destroyed and many families were looking for places to sleep as they rebuild in the coming months.
In one attack, an anti-tank missile obliterated a bus that had been full of soldiers just minutes before. According to unconfirmed reports, the Muslim Arab bus driver said that now he knows that God loves the Jews.
“Minutes before my bus was hit, 50 Israeli soldiers de-boarded. They all would have died. It’s a miracle,” he reportedly said in news spreading through the believing community.
For a full evening and throughout the night, Israelis were running to shelters when the Red Alert system signaled incoming rockets. Barely an hour went by without several alarms sounding — the kind of attacks that wouldn’t be tolerated by other countries.
In Ashkelon, one man, a Palestinian, was killed when a rocket destroyed an apartment building 8 miles from the Gaza border. The man was found with his wife who was injured.
This escalation in violence follows months of simmering tensions and protests by Palestinians at the Gaza border with Israel. The rocket barrages began in earnest on Monday after an undercover Israeli intelligence operation in Gaza late Sunday left one Israeli officer and seven Palestinians dead.
So far Israeli casualties remain relatively low compared to the number of rockets fired. In addition to God’s protection, the Iron Dome system is credited with shooting down many incoming rockets while bomb shelters directly saved many Israeli lives in the past few months. Palestinians reported seven killed in retaliatory air strikes by the Israeli air force on Tuesday.
After meetings all day, the security cabinet ordered the IDF to “continue its strikes” against terrorists in the Strip “as needed.” But the vagueness of the statement was seen as a decision of sorts to restore calm after the rocket barrage.
Pray for wisdom for Israel’s leadership to know how to respond to the situation. Pray for the safety and protection of innocent civilians. Pray for those who must rebuild now. And pray also for Palestinian people to be free from Hamas control and to come to know the Prince of Peace.