You are here

A costly business, yet Netanyahu will cling on

Sep 03,2014 - Last updated at Sep 03,2014

Israel’s 50-day war on Gaza has been a costly business, both for Israel and Gaza.

Israel launched its attack as the country’s economic growth had slowed from 2.8 to 1.7 per cent and exports, accounting for about one-third of the economy, had declined by 18 per cent, partly because of an expensive shekel.

Due to the war, Israel lost revenues from tourism, 7 per cent of the economy, during a peak period.

About 20 per cent of the businesses in the southern region targeted by Gazan missiles could close while others are suffering losses.

Israeli tanks and troops flattened crops and destroyed irrigation networks of Israeli farmers in communities near the Gaza border. Production could be curtailed for the next two years at a cost of $2 million.

West Bank Palestinians began boycotting Israeli products at the instigation of a movement which seeks to ensure that the abstention lasts well beyond the ceasefire.

Annual Palestinian consumption of Israeli goods stands at $3.5 billion. Therefore, a boycott that reduces Israeli sales by a significant percentage could be harmful.

Experts speak of further contraction of the Israeli economy into the new year.

Maariv analyst Ben Caspit quipped that Israel could not hail as a victory a war that resulted in a “collapse of the tourism industry in an economy approaching recession”.

To pay for the war, Israel may have to cut all ministry budgets, excluding that of the military, by two per cent, raising $2 billion, and introduce tax breaks for firms located in the vulnerable south.

The war cost the Israeli armed forces deterrence as well as the lives of 66 soldiers and $2.5 billion worth of bombs, shells and rockets for its Iron Dome anti- missile system.

The military failed to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas or halt the rocket fire which continued until the ceasefire began. This amounted to the humiliation of the most powerful military machine in this region, which has been provided with state-of-the-art weaponry and aircraft in an asymmetric battle with Palestinian fighters armed with homemade rockets and mortars, automatic rifles and some anti-tank weapons.

Hamas still has some 3,000 rockets in its arsenal and can count on recruiting young Palestinians brutalised by the war and eager to fight the next battle.

Yedioth Ahronoth’s respected columnist Nahum Barnea wrote during the war that “instead of paving the way to removing the threat from Gaza, we are paving the road for the next round, in Lebanon or in Gaza”.

The war undermined Israel’s Cabinet system of governance.

Netanyahu could neither deal with nor trust colleagues, notably Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Neftali Bennett, both considerably to the right of Netanyahu.

He, reportedly, regards them as “enemies”.

During the war, he held lengthy Cabinet meetings but took decisions in the security Cabinet made up of himself, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and Chief-of-Staff Benny Ganz.

The sidelined ministers can now claim that they are not to blame for the fiasco.

The war cost Netanyahu dearly on the political plane.

His poll rating, 82 per cent favourable at the outset of the war, plunged to 38 per cent by the end.

A more recent public opinion survey showed that Bennett is seen as the leader of the right by 39 per cent of Israelis versus 28 per cent who opted for Netanyahu and 20 per cent for Lieberman.

Bennett had previously polled second to Netanyahu.

Since the ceasefire, Netanyahu has been accused of having no clear strategy to achieve a defined goal and charged with allowing Hamas to seize the initiative throughout the conflict.

He brushed off criticisms of his leadership and claimed a famous victory over Hamas and its allies, but has not been convincing.

He even said Israel halted its operations in Gaza in order to do battle with the Islamic State, a laughable ploy.

Barnea commented: “The Israelis expected a leader, a statesman who knows what he wants to achieve, someone who makes decisions and engages in a sincere and real dialogue with his public. They received a seasoned spokesperson, and very little beyond that.”

But then, Netanyahu has always been glib, a man with a turn of phrase and a flare for showmanship.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely that Netanyahu will be forced to resign as a result of this conflict, as did prime minister Golda Meir and defence minister Moshe Dayan after Egypt and Syria mounted their surprise attack on Israel in 1973, and Menachem Begin following Israel’s brutal Lebanon war in 1982.

Despite the poll results, Yossi Verter, writing in Haaretz, pointed out that the disappointing and controversial military campaign did not “generate a genuine alternative to [Netanyahu], certainly not in the foreseeable future”.

Verter spoke of a “leadership draught” in Israel and was sharply critical of the Labour Party head and opposition leader Isaac Herzog who failed to prove himself a worthy opponent of Netanyahu during the conflict.

Labour remains in crisis with the expectation, according to the latest polls, of securing only 14 to 18 seats in the 120-seat Knesset if an election were held now.

Netanyahu would remain the most likely to form a government because his Likud Party would win 26 seats.

Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi would garner only 19 seats and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu eight.

It is a sorry day when the sole electable politician in this region’s self- proclaimed “only democracy” is Netanyahu, a slick talker and line spinner who waged a war without determining its goal.

Did he want to crush Hamas or, simply, end the rocket fire from Gaza?

His war did neither.

The death and destruction wreaked in Gaza by Israel has also cost it dear in its relations with Europe and, to a certain extent, the US.

Europeans were appalled by the death toll among the Palestinians, 2,168, and by the 11,000 wounded and thousands of houses destroyed.

Two US opinion polls showed that 42 per cent of citizens found Israel’s assault on Gaza justified while 39 per cent argued it was unjustified; 47 per cent of Democrats said it was unjustified.

The figures, however, do not reveal the distress of many in the US Jewish community, particularly young people, who have been shocked and alienated by Israel’s latest and most devastating assault on Gaza, as well as its continuing colonisation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

33 users have voted.


Get top stories and blog posts emailed to you each day.