June 2024 column by Ron Weiser


Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a man under huge pressure on multiple fronts. Some of his own making and some not.

Firstly, defending Israel against the genocidal intent of Iran and its proxies.

Anyone who was hesitant about the necessity of operating in Rafah and securing the so called ‘Philadelphi Corridor,’ stretching 14 km along the Egyptian/Gazan border, should read what other initial sceptics such as journalist and Netanyahu critic Alon Ben David, wrote in the Jerusalem Post on Friday.

Before entering Rafah I expressed doubt about the necessity of conquering the city, but after seeing what was revealed, that doubt has been removed.”

Rafah is a very significant component of Hamas’s force. It has a more extensive and developed tunnel system than we have seen anywhere else in Gaza.

It differs from the tunnels uncovered in other parts of the Strip in that they are all connected: smuggling tunnels to Egypt, combat tunnels, tunnels for senior officials to hide—everything is connected.

Along the Philadelphia axis, the border between Gaza and Egypt, a dug tunnel shaft was discovered every ten metres.

The entire border is studded with smuggling tunnels that are connected to rocket launch pits, command tunnels inside the city and attack tunnels towards Israel. Most of the tunnels have several levels, and they go down to a depth of 30 meters.

Operations in Rafah, on which there is now wide consensus in Israel, seem to have been conducted successfully and without upsetting the US administration.

The question after Rafah, is what to do about Hezbollah and the north?

Israel’s aim is clear and reasonable. To push back Hezbollah from the Lebanese border area sufficiently, so that Israelis can return to their homes with some degree of security.

How to actually achieve this, whether by diplomacy or war, or some combination of the two, is the real challenge.

As well, critical thinking will try and calculate the price Israeli citizens will have to pay and whether that price will be less now, or later.

Which brings us to the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Israel Defence Forces.

In a democracy, it is of course the elected leaders who make the decisions, after considering advice from the military and other factors, and the army which then carries these decisions out.

Israel is in a situation where public trust in the IDF is very much higher than in the political leadership.

Both groups leak against the other in terms of responsibility for failures and the desirability of what the next steps should be.

This only serves to undermine Israel’s interests and muddy the waters.

The third front is the internal political situation.

Until Gantz pulled out of the War Cabinet, regardless of whether he played a big role there or was constantly sidelined, he did serve two very useful roles.

The obvious one was that there was a united Israeli political face on dealing with Hamas.

Perhaps of greater significance however, was that his presence in the government, allowed Netanyahu to sideline the more extreme elements of his own coalition, who he left out of the War Cabinet itself, on the one hand. On the other, to not kowtow to the demands of his other coalition partners, the Haredim.

Now with Gantz’s departure, any single coalition party has the power, once again, to bring the Netanyahu government down and force elections.

And they are threatening to do so.

More significantly, some Likud Knesset members themselves are increasingly opposing the demands of their own coalition partners and are more publicly standing against Netanyahu’s attempts to appease these junior parties.

Since Gantz’s departure, Netanyahu has clashed heavily on two issues with the Haredi parties – securing ‘jobs for the boys’ by entrenching Haredi power with the so called ‘Rabbis’ Law’ and more importantly, on proposed legislation around drafting Haredim to the IDF, or to some form of national service.

As well, Ben Gvir and Smotrich are now more confident in attempting to push Netanyahu on the conduct of the war and policies to do with ‘the day after’ in Gaza and in dealing with Judea/Samaria/West Bank.

Polls, as reliable or otherwise as they are generally and particularly less so during wartime, show Netanyahu gaining on Gantz, who is more the home of the anti-Netanyahu vote, rather than pro-Gantz one.

At some point in time an election will be called, but it is hard to see Gantz beating Netanyahu.

For Netanyahu to depart the political scene, it is more likely that either the Likud itself will decide on a new leader, or someone who is not currently in the Knesset, will emerge to lead a new centre right/right coalition and with the added electoral appeal of either diminishing the influence of, or omitting, the Haredi parties and Ben Gvir and Smotrich from a future coalition.

A lot will depend on how Netanyahu’s performance is judged by the centre right/right wing electorate over the coming period.

Which brings us to the fourth front.

Netanyahu’s strongest political asset at the moment, is how he is perceived to ‘stand up’ to President Biden and the ‘crisis’ in Israel-US relations.

This is his current masterstroke and proof positive, again, that one should never write off Netanyahu and his political instincts.

President Biden and the United States have provided Israel with unprecedented military support and for a sustained period.

Without question.

What is also without question is that this support has come with heavy diplomatic pressure and at least some delay in the supply of some military hardware.

Here the picture becomes less clear on the question of quantum and extent.

But for an Israel under attack from barbarians, an Israel fighting for the safety of its citizens and the return of hostages taken after the most brutal attack of 7 October, and an Israel fighting for the interests of the free world whether they see it or not, an American president who is perceived to choose now to hamper Israel’s defence, is a political gift to Netanyahu and a rallying point for even those who had looked forward to the chance of toppling him at the next elections.

But only to a point.

Defence Minister Gallant has just been to the US. Netanyahu will try and ensure that credit for repairing the alliance will go to himself and not to Gallant.

Of course, all of these external and internal threats and challenges are intertwined.

The still good news is that the bulk of the Israeli population, while they may not be united behind one political leader or the other, to this point in time remain united in understanding the challenges they face and the need to deal with them.

Am Yisrael Chai

Dr Ron Weiser AM

Share this post

Program Partners

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Organisational Partners

Subscribe for the latest news and events