Photo Credit: Edi Israel/POOL/Flash90
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, Sept. 22, 2014.

Except from Israel Assassinates Senior Islamic Jihad Leader.

The political fallout from this strike will certainly affect Israel’s coalition negotiations.

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To begin with, this is a hit on Avigdor Liberman, who loudly declared that he would kill Hamas terrorist leader Ismael Haniyeh within 48 hours of being appointed Defense Minister.

After Liberman was appointed Defense Minister, he did not assassinate Haniyeh. The ongoing joke in Israel is that anytime Liberman makes a proclamation, people often add on “within 48 hours” to his statement.

This takes the Arab Joint List out of the coalition negotiations equation. They have been openly hinting that they would support Gantz from the outside. Which together with Liberman, probably also on the outside, would allow Blue&White’s Benny Gantz to form a minority coalition government.

But earlier this week, MK Ahmad Tibi made it very clear on TV that his Joint Arab List would absolutely vote to disband a Gantz-led government if it launched an IDF operation against the missiles from Gaza.

As for Blue&White’s MK Benny Gantz, this now makes it much easier for him to enter a Netanyahu-led coalition, whether with a rotation deal or not – for the “national interest” of the country, of course.

Gantz has already stated that political echelon made the correct decision and that the war on terror “demands tough decisions.” According to reports, PM Netanyahu informed MK Gantz of the planned operation a week ago.

Somewhat presciently, upon accepting the Defense Minister position, MK Ayelet Shaked tweeted that Naftali Bennett had accepted the position only until a new government was formed.

Bennett’s taking over the position allows Netanyahu to focus on coalition negotiations during the fighting with Gaza, and if Gantz joins, Bennett is likely to step aside for Gantz to come in and take over as senior coalition partner and Defense Minister.

Until (if) Bennett is sworn in later today at 11 AM, Netanyahu is still officially the Defense Minister.

None of this is to say that this targeted assassination was politically motivated. The IDF takes targeted assassinations very seriously and only against real targets that endanger Israel. But this military action does have political ramifications and could pull Israel out of this election quagmire.

According to reporter Amit Segal, the decision to assassinate Baha Abu al-Ata was made a week before the elections, apparently after Islamic Jihad launched a rocket at Ashdod while Netanyahu was speaking in the city, but the operation was held up for legal and operational reasons.

As an aside, Hamas may not mind what happens next, if Israel only focuses on fighting Islamic Jihad.

Islamic Jihad has been a thorn in the side of Hamas. If the IDF doesn’t hit any Hamas targets, Hamas may be fine watching from the sidelines as its two enemies attack one another.

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