A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was implemented Tuesday night ending a barrage of some 460 rockets launched into Israel from the Gaza Strip, after Hamas “begged” for one, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Netanyahu’s assessment was backed up by unnamed Israeli officials, who said it was Hamas that asked for the ceasefire. Other mediators who worked on the ceasefire, including Egypt, the United Nations, Norway, and Switzerland, also indicated that it was Hamas that sought to stop fighting.
The ceasefire went into effect Tuesday night. A joint statement of the Gaza-based terrorist groups said that they would halt attacks against Israel “as long as the Zionist enemy does the same.”
Israel’s security cabinet approved the deal after a six-hour meeting. Four ministers, including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, opposed the ceasefire deal. The others were Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, and Jerusalem Affairs Minister and Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin.
Top officials of Israel’s defense and security agencies — including the IDF, Mossad and Shin Bet — briefed the security cabinet, and all reportedly recommended limiting Israel’s response to the rocket attacks and not escalating to a full-blown war.
Netanyahu has also argued that Israel was in no position to dislodge Hamas because there is no party prepared to govern Gaza in its absence.
Liberman and Bennett, the Post reported, “have publicly come out in favor of a more aggressive position than the one taken by Netanyahu.”
The ceasefire was also criticized by leaders of Israel’s opposition. Zionist Union head Tzipi Livni said that the government “does not have a solution to the security situation.” Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid said that Israel had sacrificed some of its deterrence against Hamas.
In the wake of an Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire deal, Liberman resigned, saying that he could “no longer” do his job. The departure of Liberman and his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, from the coalition leaves the current government with a narrow 61-seat majority in Knesset. Liberman had joined the government as Defense Minister in May 2016, a year after the last elections.
Bennett, who leads the Habayit Hayehudi party, has demanded the defense portfolio and is threatening to leave the government with his party if he doesn’t get it.
For now, Netanyahu says that he will serve as Defense Minister, even though he also serves as Foreign Minister and Health Minister. He would also take on the post of Immigration Absorption Minister, as its current minister, Sofa Landver, will leave the coalition with Yisrael Beiteinu.
In addition to Bennett, two members of Netanyahu’s Likud Party — Transportation and Intelligence Minister Israel Katz and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman and former Shin Bet chief Avi Dichter — are thought to be interested in the defense portfolio.
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