The Irish Times view on Israeli politics: the prime minister is looking increasingly isolated

Binyamin Netanyahu denounced his army’s plans for a humanitarian pause in Gaza, as he moved to try to keep the government coalition together

Protesters hold signs and flags during a demonstration calling for a hostages deal in Tel Aviv, Israel earlier this week (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

When Israel’s prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu denounced his army’s plans for a humanitarian pause in Gaza as “unacceptable”, insisting he did not know about it in advance, most observers took his comments with a pinch of salt.

Netanyahu was clearly addressing not the army, or the public, but posturing for his ultranationalist coalition partners, who want a more aggressive approach to the war and for whom humanitarian corridors signalled capitulation to Hamas.

Reports from Gaza suggest that, despite the prime minister’s objections, but to the relief of Gazans and the international community, the very limited pause was in place and relief supplies were flowing.

Apart from prompting the obvious question – “who is in charge in Israel?” – the episode illustrated a brutal truth underlying Netanyahu’s main, some say sole, preoccupation – personal survival from charges of corruption should he lose power. And on Monday, as thousand of Israelis marched against him demanding elections and compromises to free the hostages, their prime minister took another step to safeguard his precarious political control by abolishing the country’s war cabinet.


Its dissolution had been inevitable since the resignations last week of centrist ministers Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot due to Netanyahu’s refusal even to discuss plans for managing a postwar Gaza, let alone to agree to the US-proposed and internationally-backed ceasefire package. With their exit, the demands by the ultranationalist national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, to join the war cabinet had to be forestalled, so he simply abolished it. Running the war now reverts to a small echo chamber of acolytes.

The large domestic protests, the disintegration of the coalition, the continued extension of Israeli attacks in Gaza to the West Bank and the clashes on the Lebanese border, all reflect a moment of huge vulnerability and increasing isolation for Israel and particularly its extremist government.