While the issue is not being discussed publicly, Netanyahu may have to choose between a ground offensive against Gaza or the cohesion of his newly established electoral coalition with Yisrael Beitenu. Angst is rising among potential Likud candidates for the Knesset due to the inability to predict how many seats in Knesset the new electoral list will receive. Cynicism within Israel’s political system has apparently reached the point at which the fate of Palestinians and Israelis may be just another factor in the run-up towards a seat in the Knesset.
PM Netanyahu will have to decide whether to postpone Israeli elections (Photo: US Department of Defence)
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israeli Air Force has struck more than 1,000 targets in Gaza since the start of Operation Pillar of Defense. According to Netanyahu, Israeli attacks have inflicted a heavy toll on Hamas and other organizations, significantly harming their ability to launch rockets against Israel.
However, despite this massive attack, Israel was unable to force Hamas into accepting Israeli conditions and Israel is now prepared to expand it its operations in Gaza. While the prime minister did not publicly discuss a ground operation, Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar told Israel Radio Sunday morning that the cabinet was indeed discussing the pros and cons of such a move. Sa'ar also revealed that negotiations towards achieving a cease fire had not yet progressed to a point that would justify halting military operations in Gaza.
Mayors and heads of Israeli southern local authorities believe Israel should not halt the offensive on Gaza at this moment, nor should it move towards achieving a cease fire.
"If we've come this far, we must continue," said Eshkol Regional Council Head Haim Yalin in interviews with the Israeli press on Saturday evening. "We must reach a situation in which we have won, in which terrorism is forced into a peace agreement." Ofakim Mayor Tzvika Greengold said he hopes Israel won’t reach a premature truce while Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich said, "the southern council heads and residents would like to remind the Israeli government that the key goal of Operation Pillar of Defense is to stop the rocket fire once and for all. If we fail to do so, it will be a historic missed opportunity.”
"If we return to the same situation we had before the operation, we will be making fools of ourselves," stated Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin.
However, a ground operation in Gaza, for which Israel has mobilized 75 thousand soldiers, and which could last several weeks, would create great turmoil in Israel’s political scene. December 6 is the last day for submission of the lists of Knesset candidates to the Central Election Commission. However, while the offensive on Gaza continues it will be extremely difficult for the big parties, Likud-Yisrael Beitenu, Kadima and Labor, to hold primary elections, as mandated in their party regulations, on time. If the fire exchange on southern Israel will continue then large part of the constituents, soldiers and residents of the south, will not be able to participate in the primary elections, thus biasing the results.
Israel’s political scene is thus discussing the necessity of delaying the planned January 22 parliamentary elections.
Due to the problematic of selecting candidates on time, Environment Minister Gilad Ardan (Likud) called to consider changing the election date. He noted that such a change can be done in one day through a legislative amendment in Knesset.
In addition, Ardan claims that voting under the current conditions will jeopardize the security of voters leaving the polls. "The hour is to maintain cohesion and unity of the people around the quest for security. Later everyone will be able to choose who should lead." Ardan said in a public meeting in Nes Tsiona on Saturday.
The Israel press claims that other senior Likud officials said over the weekend that national elections should be delayed, if the security situation does not allow for the conduct of primary elections.
Cynicism within Israel’s political system has apparently reached the point at which the fate of Palestinians and Israelis may be just another factor in the run-up towards a seat in the Knesset.