Analysis: How Israeli politics slows solution to Gaza crisis

Why is there such a delay in finding a sustainable solution to Gaza’s seemingly endemic crisis?

By Daniel Krygier, World Israel News

Eight months of kite bombs, fire balloons and mass riots on the Gaza Strip and Israel is no closer to solving the violence emanating from its southern border.

Why is there such a delay in finding a sustainable solution to Gaza’s seemingly endemic crisis?

After months of attempting to negotiate a ceasefire and adopting a carrot and stick approach, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman abruptly changed direction in the last couple of weeks. He started beating the war drums. Israel had exhausted all efforts to find a peaceful solution, he said.

Israeli politicians immediately pounced on him, arguing that Liberman’s rhetoric was simply political posturing — he wanted to appear more hawkish than Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who had scored political points by criticizing Liberman’s heretofore weak response.

But what if the opposite is true? Could politics be the devil that postpones real action concerning Gaza?

It is plausible, indeed likely, that this is the case. In a recent interview with Jerusalem Post, Liberman said as much. Explaining the reason military action had not followed his tough talk, he argued that the defense establishment “must turn over every stone before any confrontation, so they will not say that I’m dragging Israel into battle because of my own agenda.

If we take Liberman at his word, politics is not driving him to war, it’s holding him back.

Need for reform

With new elections in Israel looming on the horizon in 2019, politicians are increasingly wary of coming across as putting their political agendas ahead of Israel’s national security. This problem is not unique to Israel. However, the effect is more pronounced due to Israel’s unique and complex security challenges.

It appears that politics is increasingly interfering with Israel’s security needs.

When Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor Osiraq in 1981, the Israeli opposition accused Begin of political opportunism. Begin did indeed win the Israeli election after the Israeli military strike.

However, it was not political opportunism but Israel’s security that pushed Begin to deny Saddam Hussein nuclear weapons. Even many of his harshest critics admitted that Begin was a highly principled man who cared deeply about the Jewish state and the Jewish people. This and not political cynicism was the reason behind his political victory.

By contrast, much of Israeli politics today focuses on problem management instead of problem solving. Israeli politicians focus on getting reelected by avoiding mistakes on their watch. The safest bet to avoid mistakes is to avoid making fateful decisions on issues of crucial national interest.

Finding a sustainable solution to Gaza requires both military and non-military components. However, more than anything, it requires a fundamental political reform of Israel’s fractured political system.