Far-right Israeli leaders are scrambling to prolong war in Gaza to try to save their own political careers
04/10/2024 // Cassie B. // Views

Mass protests in Israel are taking aim at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling on him to end the war in Gaza, but he’s not the only politician in the country who is interested in prolonging the war. As the Jewish state starts withdrawing some troops from Gaza, some far-right officials are panicking about what might come next.

Israel has now withdrawn the bulk of its troops from Gaza in a move that the Hebrew media has labeled an official end to the IDF’s ground operation in the strip, at least for now. This does not mean they are finished there by any means, but it is a significant de-escalation, and some leaders on the far right are not happy about it.

On X, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who represents the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, wrote that if Netanyahu “decides to end the war without an extensive attack on Rafah in order to defeat Hamas, he will not have a mandate to continue serving as Prime Minister.” In other words, unlike the 100,000 people who have been protesting in Tel Aviv, they want more war, not less.

The Religious Zionist Party’s Bezalel Smotrich is also disappointed the war could be winding down. He has called on Netanyahu to hold a meeting of his security cabinet to discuss the issue, claiming that Bibi is not authorized to make the decision to withdraw troops.

“The only forum authorized to make significant decisions in war is the full [security] cabinet, but unfortunately, this is not how things are happening,” he said in a statement, adding: “We are seeing decisions being made in the smaller [war] cabinet without approval, without updating the full cabinet, under international pressure that is harming the war’s momentum and our security interests.”

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Many leaders are motivated to keep the war going

For Netanyahu himself, the motivation is clear. As long as the war continues, he can stay in power and potentially delay his upcoming corruption trial, possibly indefinitely. De-escalation would also mean that state inquiries into the Israeli government’s culpability for the attacks by Hamas on October 7 would be able to get underway.

His coalition partners have their own motivations, and he relies on them to keep the coalition together that enables him to rule the country. Far-right parties like the aforementioned Otzma Yehudit and the Religious Zionist Party consider this war to be a means to achieving their foundational political principles of expanding Jewish supremacy while keeping Palestinian nationalism in check.

If these factions quit the coalition government, Israel would be forced to hold early elections. Polls indicate that Netanyahu’s bloc would lose its power in such an election, even with many Israelis opposing the creation of a Palestinian state.

For now, those in favor of prolonging the war may just get their wish. The troop withdrawal may be in full swing, but Netanyahu claims he has set a date to invade Rafah in southern Gaza as truce talks seem to be going nowhere. He insisted in a video statement that a ground military operation in the town, with more than 1.5 million Palestinians currently taking shelter there after being forced to flee their homes, is vital for winning the war. His announcement came after calls by far-right leaders to step up IDF action against Hamas.

He failed to provide details or disclose the date, but he doubled down on his insistence they will eliminate all of Hamas’s brigades. Such a move would be in direct defiance of the U.S., which has publicly opposed such an invasion on the grounds that there are no feasible plans in place for evacuating the many civilians there.

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