Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigned today and announced that his right-wing Yisrael Beitenu party was leaving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition. In a press conference, Liberman accused Netanyahu and his allies of surrendering to terrorism by agreeing to a cease-fire with Hamas and called for early elections as soon as next February.
Why it matters: The resignation throws Israeli politics into turmoil and will almost certainly trigger early elections. Netanyahu must call elections by November 2019 at the latest, but the expectation now is that they will be held within the next three or four months.
Liberman promised before he took the job in June 2016 to take a harsh stance against Hamas and retrieve the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by the Islamist group within 48 hours. His inability to force his hawkish views fueled his decision to resign while making Netanyahu look weak in the eyes of a political base that strongly opposes efforts to placate Hamas in hopes of calming tensions in the Gaza Strip.
The fallout: Netanyahu has vowed to try to stabilize a government that now has only a one-vote majority in the Knesset. Meanwhile, Hamas is celebrating the resignation as a “victory” over a key hard-liner.
What's next: Netanyahu has already started consultations with leaders of coalition parties. Within the next few days, he will have to decide how long he wants to limp along with his razor-thin majority before calling elections. Meanwhile, negotiations between Israel and Hamas resumed, with UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov on a mission to strike a deal with the help of Qatar and Egypt.
Know more: Shlomi Eldar has a good story from Tuesday on why the Israeli leadership continues to support efforts to reach an arrangement with Hamas, while Danny Zaken explains why Israel and Hamas aren’t itching for a fight despite the latest flare-up.
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