Is­rael’s po­lit­i­cal split grows IDF pre­pares for war crimes ac­cu­sa­tions

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER BY ANSHEL PF­EF­FER

WITH THE fight­ing in Gaza ap­par­ently over, Knes­set mem­bers have be­gun to ac­cli­ma­tise them­selves to a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

The split within Likud be­tween cen­trists and right-wingers has be­come more pro­nounced.

For­eign Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man, un­til re­cently seen as one of the most pow­er­ful politi­cians in Is­rael, is be­ing marginalised, as his com­peti­tor for lead­er­ship of the far-right in Is­rael, Naf­tali Ben­nett, is soar­ing in the polls.

The two min­is­ters whom Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu now seems most re­liant upon, ac­cord­ing to cabi­net in­sid­ers, are De­fence Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon, with whom the PM is in con­stant con­tact over the mil­i­tary plans, and, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, his old ri­val, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Tzipi Livni.

As a for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, Ms Livni ne­go­ti­ated the cease­fires to the Sec­ond Le­banon War and Op­er­a­tion Cast Lead in Gaza, and Mr Ne­tanyahu has been spend­ing long hours with her dis­cussing Is­rael’s exit-strat­egy from the cur­rent cri­sis.

Mean­while, the cur­rent for­eign min­is­ter, Mr Lieber­man, is find­ing him­self in­creas­ingly left out of the se­cu­rity cabi­net. He has even taken to miss­ing the oc­ca­sional meet­ing and has not shared a plat­form with the Prime Min­is­ter for weeks — un­like Mr Yaalon, who reg­u­larly makes joint state­ments with the PM.

The de­fence min­is­ter is now Mr Ne­tanyahu’s clos­est ally within Likud.

Likud­niks un­happpy with Mr Ne­tanyahu’s re­fusal to “fin­ish off Ha­mas” have not made the mis­take of for­mer deputy de­fence min­is­ter Danny Danon, who was fired three weeks ago af­ter openly at­tack­ing the Prime Min­is­ter on the is­sue.

Mr Lieber­man will not be fired as he is the leader of a party that is vi­tal for the coali­tion’s sur­vival but he is pay­ing the price for hold­ing two press con­fer­ences in the early stages of the con­flict in which he at­tacked Mr Ne­tanyahu.

His party, Yis­rael Beit­einu, is lan­guish­ing in the polls while Habayit Hayehudi is up nearly 50 per cent. This is as­cribed to the way party leader Naf­tali Ben­nett has led the hardl i ne r i ght c a mp in the cabi­net while re­main­ing loyal in p u b l i c t o Mr Ne­tanyahu.

TWO IDF teams are col­lect­ing ev­i­dence to re­spond to pos­si­ble war crimes ac­cu­sa­tions in the wake of Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge in Gaza.

One team, headed by Ma­jor Gen­eral Noam Ti­bon, com­man­der of North­ern Corps, has been in­ves­ti­gat­ing cases in which IDF fire caused civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, and is pre­par­ing a num­ber of re­ports.

A sec­ond team was set up last week un­der IDF Plan­ning De­part­ment com­man­der Ma­jor Gen­eral Nim­rod She­fer and is look­ing at pro­vid­ing ev­i­dence of war crimes al­legedly car­ried out by Ha­mas and Is­lamic Ji­had, par­tic­u­larly their use of civil­ian ar­eas to launch rock­ets. For­mer chief Pales­tinian ne­go­tia­tor Saeb Erekat is en­er­get­i­cally push­ing for the PA to join the ICC and ini­ti­ate a probe into al­leged Is­raeli war crimes. Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, how­ever, has been re­luc­tant to take such a step, which would mean a ma­jor diplomatic clash with Is­rael and the US.

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