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The voices of opposition to the military operations in Lebanon grew stronger on Wednesday after the cabinet announced its decision to expand the IDF offensive.
Left-wing MKs lambasted the announcement.
"This decision will become a death trap for IDF soldiers," said Zehava Gal-On (Meretz). "The cabinet decision will reduce the possibility of a cease-fire agreement."
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Even before the cabinet met, Gal-On and several other MKs from her party had pleaded with the ministers to "ignore the government's request" and "be brave against the war." Meretz chairman Yossi Beilin called the cabinet's decision "a tragic mistake" and said that Israel was on the verge of "a war of attrition on the ground."
Since the start of the war, opposition from the Meretz and Arab MKs has steadily become more vocal.
"These types of calls are completely inappropriate and show that these parties do not support the government in a time of war," said one Likud lawmaker. Although in the opposition, Likud MKs have remained steadfast in their support of the war.
The cabinet approved a wider ground offensive in southern Lebanon that was expected to take 30 days. The decision was backed by nine cabinet members, with abstentions from Ministers Shimon Peres (Kadima), Ophir Paz-Pines (Labor) and Eli Yishai (Shas). While Peres and Paz-Pines argued that all diplomatic channels had to be exhausted before the war was expanded, Yishai felt that the government should give more time for air strikes to run their course.
"Finally the government gave the Israel Defense Forces the mandate to defend the country from missiles and rockets," said MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who added that he had urged the government to deploy the reinforcements as soon as possible. "The simple truth is that only the IDF can fight Hizbullah and eradicate its military presence in southern Lebanon," Steinitz said.
Other MKs in the opposition, including Effi Eitam (NU-NRP) characterized the cabinet decision as "brave and unavoidable in light of the ongoing Hizbullah assault on Israel's cities."
"We must remember there are no happy wars, but the IDF must achieve a victory and bring victory to the State of Israel," Eitam said. "At this time the entire nation in Israel is united in prayer for the well-being of IDF soldiers and the success of their mission in defending residents of the North."
The backing that the government has received for the military operations in the north had been critical to maintaining a united home front, said Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog.
While the opposition from Meretz MKs will likely distance that party from the rest of the Knesset, said one Kadima MK, the Arab MKs would remain the "black sheep" of the Knesset.
"They have done themselves much harm by voicing so much dissent to the war," said the Kadima MK.
MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash), who had repeatedly clashed with government MKs in the plenum, said the cabinet decision was "insanity testifying to military arrogance."
"This is the time for diplomatic initiatives and not military adventures," said MK Taleb a-Sanaa (United Arab List-Ta'al). A-Sanaa had repeatedly called for the cabinet to ignore its "militant instincts" and seek diplomatic solutions.