August 27, 2014
Gaza War's Clear Loser: Netanyahu (Daniel Gordis, 8/27/14, Bloomberg View)
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 27, 2014 7:09 PM
The political right smells blood. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who coupled his Yisrael Beitinu ("Israel is our Home") party to Netanyahu's Likkud for the January 2013 elections but has since insisted he would not do so again, has demanded that the Israeli Defense Forces retake the Gaza strip. Few Israelis wanted to do that -- the losses would have been extremely high (some estimates projected 500 to 1000 soldiers killed), and it wasn't clear how Israel would eventually extricate itself or bear the international condemnation. Still, in the Morning After, some Israelis who thought that Lieberman was behaving like a thug who are now muttering: "Maybe he was right." [...]The other likely winner on the right is Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, whose Habayit Hayehudi ("The Jewish Home") party was a surprisingly strong player in recent elections. There has always been bad blood between Netanyahu and Bennett (some attribute it to Netanyahu's wife detesting Bennett), and Bennett, like Lieberman, had also urged the use of much greater force. Bibi not only ignored him, but publicly smacked him down for creating a wartime rift in the cabinet. It's virtually inconceivable that Bennett will not try a little jujitsu after that humiliation; he, too, is almost guaranteed to climb in the polls.With Hamas celebrating in the streets, and Israelis who live near Gaza still insisting they're too afraid of rockets and tunnels to go home, the potential for Bennett and Lieberman to challenge Bibi has never looked better. Ironically, Hamas may have just ushered in a much more hard-line Israeli government.But the political left is equally unhappy. Israel bombed Gaza into smithereens for seven weeks, killed thousands of people -- many of them terrorists, but many of them civilians, women and children (as was inevitable, given that Hamas stationed itself in neighborhoods, mosques and hospitals). To do all of that without having achieved victory, the left insists, is a moral and political catastrophe. Haaretz, Israel's left-leaning paper of record, led this morning with an opinion piece noting that after Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, Netanyahu castigated then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, saying that Hamas should have been toppled and security restored to Israel. Bibi insisted that only he could do it, which was when that "A Strong Leader for a Strong Nation" manta re-appeared. "Reality is a bit more complicated, isn't it?" Haaretz derisively castigated him this morning.