Netanyahu, Lieberman issue new threats of war against Gaza
Both Israel’s prime minister and defence minister threatened to start a war with Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip on Sunday.
“It seems that Hamas has not understood the message. If these attacks do not stop, they will be stopped in another way, in the form of very, very strong blows," Binyamin Netanyahu said during the weekly cabinet meeting, in reference to recent protests at the border.
"We are very close to another type of action which would include very strong blows. If Hamas is intelligent, it will cease fire and violence now," he added.
Shortly before the cabinet meeting, defence minister Avigdor Lieberman called for “directing the strongest possible blow to Hamas” in an interview with Israel’s Yediot Aharonot before the cabinet meeting.
Growing possibility of war?
Both Netanyahu and Lieberman have in recent weeks threatened the besieged Gaza Strip with another war with Hamas.
“At this stage, it’s hard to tell how likely they are to act upon their threats,” according to Nedal Wattad — The New Arab’s Arabic language service’s resident Palestine expert.
Currently, Netnayahu’s coalition is under increased political pressure as he and his wife Sarah Netanyahu potentially face corruption charges on a number of separate occasions.
Last Sunday, Sarah went on trial for allegedly using state funds to fraudulently pay for hundreds of meals.
Prosecutors accuse them of misusing state funds to pay for catered meals costing $100,000 (85,000 euros) by falsely declaring there were no cooks available at the residence.
Days before, the premier was questioned for 12 hours by the police as a suspect in various corruption charges.
In one of them he allegedly tried to secure a secret deal with the publisher of Israel's top-selling newspaper Yediot Aharonot to ensure positive coverage in return for pushing forward a law that would have limited the circulation of a rival.
Not enough of a massacre
Wattad says the escalation in rhetoric could be a result of the corruption charges, along with criticisms from other Israeli politicians for not being "firm enough" with the besieged Gaza Strip, and the possibility of an early election.
Naftali Bennett, who heads the Jewish Home party, famous for supporting illegal settlements, in recent days launched scathing critique of Lieberman’s handing of the past six months of violence along the Gaza border fence.
The boost in hawkish rhetoric from Lieberman could be in reaction to the criticism, which is widely seen as a campaign to replace him, according to Wattad.
Lieberman is also facing a backlash for refusing to soften his proposition to to draft young ultra-Orthodox Jewish men into the army, especially by Bennet’s party.
Netanyahu on Tuesday said in a press conference that the future of the draft is essential to the current government, and a failure to reach a compromise may trigger an early election.
“We have to see what will happen in the coming weeks to the Tel Aviv politicians. If an early election is triggered, then their talk is mainly empty rhetoric”, Wattad said.
“If there is no early election, there is a cause for concern because it would be clear that the spike in the Israeli officials’ violent rhetoric is not pre-election populism” he added.