Saturday 20 December 2014

Netanyahu facing a cabinet revolt over ceasefire in Gaza

Robert Tait

Published 28/08/2014 | 02:30

Hamas militants display weapons as they celebrate what they say was a victory over Israel, in front of a destroyed house in the Shejaia neighborhood east of Gaza City August 27, 2014.
Hamas militants display weapons as they celebrate what they say was a victory over Israel, in front of a destroyed house in the Shejaia neighborhood east of Gaza City August 27, 2014.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
A Palestinian militant of Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, military wing of Hamas, holds his rifle during a celebration of the victory rally at the debris of destroyed houses in Shijaiyah, neighborhood of Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014.
A Hamas militant displays a mortar shell as he celebrates what the militants say was a victory over Israel, in front of a destroyed house in the Shejaia neighborhood east of Gaza City August 27, 2014. An open-ended ceasefire in the Gaza war held on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced strong criticism in Israel over a costly conflict with Palestinian militants in which no clear victor emerged.

Benjamin Netanyahu was facing a cabinet revolt yesterday over his decision to agree a ceasefire with Hamas amid widespread scepticism that either Israel or the Palestinians had gained anything from the 50-day conflict.

Right-wingers attacked the Israeli prime minister for concluding an indefinite truce without submitting the matter to a vote in the security cabinet and - more significantly - without apparently coming close to defeating Hamas militarily.

The anger of Mr Netanyahu's right-wing rivals - such as Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, and Naftali Bennett, the economy minister - was compounded by the triumphalism of the Hamas leadership, who crowed that fighting a better-armed enemy for seven weeks represented a moral victory.

Security

Mr Lieberman - who withdrew from an electoral pact with Mr Netanyahu's Likud party before the conflict because of disagreements over Gaza - said the ceasefire would enable Hamas to wage another war at a time of its choosing.

"As long as Hamas rules in Gaza, it will be impossible to guarantee security to Israeli citizens and impossible to reach a diplomatic agreement," he wrote. "Hamas is not a partner for any arrangement, be it diplomatic or security-related. It's impossible and forbidden to rely on worthless murderers," he added.

Even the centrist Yesh Atid party, the prime minister's biggest coalition partner, issued veiled criticism.

That raised the possibility that the government could collapse if Mr Netanyahu is deemed to be making concessions to Hamas in a second round of negotiations due in about a month's time to discuss issues left out of Tuesday's ceasefire agreement.

The Egyptian-brokered deal brought an abrupt halt to hostilities that had killed 2,139 Palestinians and 70 Israelis while wreaking unprecedented devastation on the Gaza Strip, which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

Hamas agreed to stop firing missiles in exchange for Israel and Egypt easing border restrictions and an increase in fishing zones. The terms were similar to those agreed after a previous war in 2012 but enabled Hamas to claim that it had lifted the "siege" of Gaza.

The assertion met with reservations on the streets of Gaza City, where shopkeepers nonetheless revelled in the first day of normal trading since early July.

"I expected more accomplishments because the price has been very high," said Saleh Haboub (41), whose shoe repair shop in al-Zawija market was open for the first time in 50 days. "There have been achievements but they are mostly rhetorical. We need something to be applied on the ground - like an airport, a seaport and the crossing to be opened without limitations."

Bassem Abu Khater (37), running a nearby cheese stall, feared that Israel would renege on its commitments, triggering renewed hostilities. "I expect this (ceasefire) will not last long. Another war will come along, whether in five years or 20 years - it's only a matter of time."

Many Gazans expressed satisfaction that "the resistance" - a popular local term for militant organisations Israel classes as "terrorists" - had faced up to superior Israeli firepower for so long.

"The biggest achievement is that the Israelis were not able to come deep inside Gaza, where they would have committed more atrocities," said Samir Fihmai Loulou (46), a jewellery shop owner.

Yet there was little sign of euphoria in Gaza City's middle- class Tal al-Hawa neighbourhood, where Dr Mohammed Abu Rayya, a child health specialist, sat beside the bombed ruins of his home.

"I'm not feeling anything, no happiness or joy, nothing," he said, sitting in a spot near where homeless residents had pitched tents. "After losing my home, my possessions, even my medical certificates, how can I feel good? The main achievement of this war has been to show Palestinian resilience. That's it." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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