Israel’s March election impacting timing of major Gaza offensive

The Army will wait, says an IDF source, despite Netanyahu’s assertions that elections won’t impact the timing of an offensive.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A ground invasion of the Gaza Strip is more likely than ever due to Hamas’ continued attacks on Israel via rockets and increasingly explosive balloons, but it won’t happen before the March 2 elections, Israel Hayom reported on Thursday.

A senior IDF source told the daily that the current estimation is that the kind of serious military action against the terrorists that is being considered could disrupt the political campaign to the point that the elections would have to be postponed.

For this reason, the IDF is reacting only minimally to the hundreds of booby-trapped balloons that have been sent into Israel over recent weeks, which have not at this point caused injury or deaths.

The IDF source contradicts previous statements made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the elections are not impacting the IDF’s ability to maneuver.

“If the launching of rockets that we’ve seen over the last few weeks and the launching of explosive balloons will continue, then we will act in the Gaza Strip, and there’s no connection to the upcoming elections; it can also happen before the elections,” a Channel 11 news report quoted Netanyahu saying at a meeting last Wednesday with Likud council leaders in the south.

The southern communities in Israel, which border the Gaza Strip, have borne the brunt of attacks emanating from the terrorist enclave.

The possibility of a major operation into the Strip was also raised before the September vote due to an uptick in terrorist violence. Netanyahu had denied then that the elections were holding him back from ordering the IDF to act.

“That is not correct,” he said. “Everyone who knows me knows that my considerations are to the point, genuine, and that I act in full coordination with the security forces with firmness and the necessary consideration.”

At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, the prime minister reiterated the country’s readiness to act, saying, “We are prepared for a crushing action against the terrorist organizations in Gaza.”

Defense Minister Naftali Bennet also met on Sunday with the IDF’s top echelon for an evaluation of the situation on the ground, and he threatened Hamas explicitly.

“We won’t give notice of when and where,” he said, adding, “The action will be very different than its predecessors. No one will be immune. Hamas has a choice: Choose life and economic prosperity, or choose terror and pay an unbearably heavy price.”