Discord among cabinet colleagues exacerbates over direction of Gaza operation

Israeli cabinet tensions over the handling of the Gaza conflict became public yesterday during a press conference held by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

Netanyahu and Ya’alon spoke to the media in Tel Aviv following a meeting of the security cabinet. During the past week, cabinet colleagues have expressed consternation that they were consulted only minimally on the ceasefire talks which took place in Cairo, with Netanyahu and Ya’alon taking almost exclusive responsibility for the negotiations.

Meanwhile, a variety of government ministers have publicly touted their own long-term strategies for Gaza. Economy Minister and Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett has said that there should be no talks with Hamas and instead an extensive military offensive should be launched. Meanwhile, Finance Minister and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid proposed an international diplomatic initiative to bring about lasting quiet. Justice Minister and Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni presented a multi-stage plan which would eventually result in recognition of the Palestinian Authority (PA) as the sovereign authority in Gaza. Foreign Minister and Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Lieberman has called for tough military action and floated the idea that the United Nations (UN) become the custodian of the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at yesterday’s press conference, Netanyahu rebuked unnamed cabinet ministers who had recently publicised “unrealistic” positions, and “empty slogans.” He urged them to “Give support and speak less” in times of conflict and emphasised that they had ample opportunity to express dissatisfaction during the 27 cabinet meetings which have been held since Operation Protective Edge was launched. Appearing alongside Netanyahu, Ya’alon echoed his comments saying that public criticism from colleagues is unacceptable “while we are burying our dead.”

Meanwhile, opposition and Labour Party leader Isaac Herzog accused Netanyahu of losing focus, saying, “We’ve seen a prime minister who’s more concerned with his shaky relationships with his cabinet members than with giving solutions to the Israeli public. There’s no horizon in his statements or hope of an accord.”

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