ANALYSIS: Did a botched commando raid lead to Liberman's downfall?

The latest round of escalation began Sunday night with a botched raid by elite IDF troops in the Gazan city of Khan Younis.

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November 14, 2018 17:17
3 minute read.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman at a military exercise, Aug 21, 2018

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman at a military exercise, Aug 21, 2018. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)

 
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A botched commando operation, a Kornet anti-tank missile striking a bus, close to 500 rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip, over 160 Gazan targets struck in response and then the resignation of the defense minister.
 
All this in the span of 72 hours.

The latest round of escalation began on Sunday night with a botched raid by elite IDF troops in the Gazan city of Khan Yunis. A firefight broke out between troops and Palestinian terrorists, leading to an IDF officer and seven Palestinians being killed. The next day Hamas fired a Kornet anti-tank missile at a bus from which dozens of soldiers had just disembarked moments earlier. This left one soldier standing alongside critically injured, and the driver moderately wounded.

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What followed was a day of rocket barrages on Israeli communities, with Israel hitting back at 160 Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets, some of which the IDF called “strategic assets” – like the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa television in the heart of the coastal enclave.
Bus hit by Hamas missile moments after soldiers disembark, November 13, 2018 (Courtesy)

As both sides feared another war would break out, a ceasefire was signed between Hamas and Israel.

Although the cabinet agreed to the ceasefire, it was deeply unpopular with several lawmakers including Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who quit on Wednesday afternoon saying that Israel “capitulated to terror.”

Liberman charged that by negotiating with Hamas, Israel was “buying short-term quiet, with the price being severe long-term damage to national security.”

On Tuesday, senior Hamas official Husan Badran said, “if Netanyahu is interested in ending this round, he must fire [Defense Minister] Liberman, who in his foolish conduct caused the escalation.” The next day Hamas cheered Liberman’s resignation, saying that it was due to  Israel’s defeat in this week’s military confrontation. Islamic Jihad also welcomed Liberman’s resignation, saying that it “was a lesson to whoever wants to test the resistance in Gaza.”

Hamas and Islamic Jihad also cheered their ability to successfully overwhelm the fabled Iron Dome missile defense system by firing hundreds of large missile and mortar barrages at once.


While the Iron Dome did succeed in intercepting some 120 projectiles, 20 rockets landed in urban areas and scored direct hits on several residential buildings, killing a 48-year-old West Bank Palestinian, Mahmoud Abu Asba, and injuring close to 100 others. While IDF officials have stressed that the Iron Dome is not hermetic and is unable to provide 100% protection, some residents of the South voiced concern over the large number of hits in residential areas.

One resident of Sderot told The Jerusalem Post that she was sure that there were not enough Iron Dome batteries deployed in the area because the northern front was of a higher strategic concern.

Residents of the South, weary from close to 15 years of rocket attacks and three wars with Gaza continue to support the IDF – but many are losing their patience with political games.

“I am a Likud supporter; I have been one all my life. But how is this life?” Another Sderot resident told the Post during a lull in rocket fire. “We all have PTSD here, even my grandchildren. Israel has to either make peace somehow with Gaza or go to war and reoccupy it. We can’t live like this.”

During his resignation speech, Liberman admitted that if “I were to stay in office, I would not be able to look southern residents in the eye.”

So 72 hours after a botched commando raid he likely signed off on and 48 hours after the heaviest missile and mortar barrage since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, he quit.

And Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh – who he threatened to assassinate within 48 hours of him taking office – outlived him.

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