…now, things have changed. Some may point to the pressure Netanyahu was facing from his own cabinet. Only days into the recent round of fighting, Netanyahu’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, announced that his Yisrael Beitenu faction would end its partnership with Netanyahu’s Likud party, a partnership that had guaranteed Netanyahu the largest party in the Israeli coalition. Lieberman cited “essential differences” with Netanyahu over the latter’s overly restrained response to Hamas’ rocketfire. And just yesterday, Netanyahu fired his incendiary deputy defense minister, Danny Dannon, over his unrelenting criticism of the Israeli government’s handling of the current campaign””particularly its acceptance of a ceasefire proposed by Egypt. (The ceasefire, unfortunately, was rejected by Hamas.)
But the more likely explanation is that Israel just didn’t have any other options. Israel could have continued its aerial and artillery exchanges with Hamas, but this campaign did not appear to be damaging either the will or the capability of Hamas. It could have loosened its rules of engagement and struck Hamas more effectively””but doing so would have inflicted unconscionably disproportionate civilian damage. It could have capitulated to Hamas’s ultimatums to release hundreds of security prisoners and reopened Gaza to shipments of arms- and tunnel-making materials. Apart from the moral implications of such a concession, doing so would simply have strengthened Hamas and ensured additional fighting. An extended cease-fire would be ideal. But so far, Egyptian attempts to broker such a cease-fire seem to have fallen on deaf ears. So Netanyahu was left with a choice that wasn’t really much of a choice.