OPINION: Israel’s Defense Minister Was Right To Resign In Protest Of Gaza Ceasefire
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned on Nov. 14 in protest of the reported ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-infested Gaza. The ceasefire was the result of a tumultuous seven-hour cabinet meeting, during which leaders of the two right-wing parties, including Liberman, called instead for a full-scale military operation in Gaza to put an end to Hamas’s ability to continue attacking Israel with hundreds of rockets — over 500 of them hit Israel during the previous 48 hours. Centrist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to adopt the proposal for military action, and subsequently received backing from the Cabinet.
Israel’s unique position, targeted as it is by multiple countries and terrorist organizations in the Middle East, calls for constant unity. You might think that this is not the best time for the Israeli government to fall into political turmoil. The politicians in the leadership of Israel have differing positions on how to respond to relentless or even intermittent attacks on our country’s sovereign territory and they all feel some solidarity with the residents of the Israeli towns that border Gaza, who were demonstrating in large numbers, angrily chanting “disgrace,” as the possibility of a ceasefire was announced. However, Netanyahu and Liberman can’t both be right about the best way to respond to the rocket attacks. So we ask the question: What is the best approach — ceasefire or war?
Despite the persistent terror attacks, as well as the terror threats, Israel has been reluctant to strike back forcefully against Hamas. Netanyahu, ever the astute diplomat, has been leading a public relations campaign, aiming to focus the eyes of the world on the nefarious actions of Iran and its march to the attainment of the nuclear bomb, as well as its heavy financial support for the various Islamic terrorist organizations, including Hamas.
This is not only valid, but it is vital to Israel’s survival. Netanyahu, while harsh on the Palestinian Authority with his words and rhetoric, has made many endeavors which have resulted in a shift of the world’s glance away from the Hamas attacks emanating from Gaza, or attacks by Fatah terrorists in the Judea and Samaria region (known to much of the world as the West Bank). Furthermore, as a masterful economist, the PM knows full well, the cost of a major military operation.
Netanyahu’s reluctance to enter Gaza, while understandable, may play well on the international level, but will not play well with the thousands of people running for safety in southern Israel on a daily basis. It’s in solidarity with these brave people that Avigdor Liberman resigned. If a no-confidence vote from the Knesset results in early elections, Hamas will likely use such a scenario to its advantage. They may launch more rockets with the full-knowledge that an Israel in a governmental crisis stands less chance of defending its people than a united Israel unleashing its full military might against the Hamas terrorists. That is a dangerous game of roulette, a game that they have been playing for years, hitting at Israel, taunting Israel, daring it to respond, then calling for a ceasefire.
Liberman’s decision was based on both politics and conscience. His voters would never have forgiven him, had he acceded to a ceasefire that will, if recent history is any guide, lead to further rounds of heavy rocket fire, attempted terrorist infiltrations and violent firebomb attacks at the Gaza-Israel border. Likewise, his belief in and his frequent promises of a more aggressive approach could not countenance a ceasefire when Israel is under attack, and therefore he had to resign, to dramatically display his displeasure.
Liberman’s resignation is likely to trigger the fall of the Netanyahu coalition, leading to early elections in the coming few months. Naftali Bennett, Education Minister and leader of the Jewish Home, the more religiously-oriented right-wing party, is demanding that Netanyahu now appoint him as defense minister. If not, his party will bolt the coalition, thereby removing the Likud’s majority coalition. Given Netanyahu’s dislike for Bennet’s more aggressive approach to confronting Israel’s enemies, which often is even stronger than Liberman’s, the PM is highly unlikely to agree, and therefore we are probably heading to early elections.
And what is the American position on all of this? Difficult times such as these allow for us to see, in action, the incredible importance of Israel’s relationship with America. President Trump has taken great actions on behalf of Israel, from the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the re-imposition of sanctions, to the moving of the American Embassy to Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital. Trump has also been quite outspoken against Anti-Semitism, especially since the shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue.
Jason Greenblatt, President Trump’s Special Representative for International Negotiations, and Ambassador David Friedman have both expressed strong sympathy and understanding for the situation Israel is currently in. They have shown an appreciation on behalf of Trump for Israel’s resilience and strength, while maintaining the right of Israel to respond strongly to threats. I am convinced that during the inevitable war with Hamas, which is certainly coming soon, this president will stand with us, and offer strong political backing. His convictions, as well as the prudent advice that he has received in recent months from knowledgeable advisors, such as Secretaries Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, along with Vice President Pence and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley seem to indicate that he will also be prepared to support Israel in defending itself in whatever way possible.
Trump and Netanyahu have a warm relationship that goes back a long way, but it seems clear to me from my research while writing my book, “Trump and the Jews”, that Trump’s positive feelings for Israel go way beyond his friendship with any one man, however important he may be. Whatever, decisions Israel may take in the coming days vis-a-vis eliminating or appeasing Hamas, as well as its internal electoral decisions, Trump is likely to stand with the Jewish state.
I commend Netanyahu for advocating a strong international response against Iran’s ruthless regime, a mortal threat to Israel and the free world. Although Hamas does not pose an existential threat to Israel’s survival, it does inflict constant damage, dead and wounded, as well as psychological trauma. It costs us innocent lives, tears families apart, and ensures that we spend vast sums of money on infrastructure repair, while chipping away at our morale.
I applaud Liberman for resigning, and the other right-of-center partners in the coalition for taking a principled stand. Until we take away the Hamas terrorists’ weapons, the attacks will continue, and they will continue to celebrate their “victories,” taunting and tormenting their Jewish neighbor — as the biblical Goliath mercilessly taunted the Israelites, until the little shepherd boy David responded both with pride and with surprising force. It’s a sad reality, but also a simple truth of our challenging lives in a very rough neighborhood that we, too, need to be proud and assertive, with God’s help, in confronting our mortal enemies.
I trust that the Israeli people, who have suffered so much, will learn the correct lessons from this debacle. At the same time, I am sure that our friend in the White House will stand with us as we place the defense and safety of our tiny Jewish state at the forefront of our endeavors.
David Rubin, former mayor of Shiloh, Israel, is author of the new book, “Trump and the Jews.” Rubin is the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his then three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.