How will the ceasefire in Gaza affect the relationship between Israel and the US?

The United Nations security council passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire and the return of hostages held by Hamas. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that Israel's military campaign will continue. Does he have the full support of his government on this or is there a risk that one of his more moderate coalition partners will break ranks?

The resolution 2,728 of the UN Security Council is testimony to ambiguous wording. He calls for an immediate ceasefire, but only to cover the rest of Ramadan, which lasts only about two weeks. He also appears to link the ceasefire to the return of “all hostages,” but does not say whether this is a condition of the ceasefire.

It is also worth noting that not mentioned to Hamas or the Israeli hostages. At the end of the corresponding paragraph there is a reference to all those detained, again without clarifying their identity.

It is also important to note that Hamas and other Palestinian sources refer to all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel as “hostages.” As a result, there are many possible interpretations of the obligations that the resolution seeks to create.

Netanyahu has denounced the United States for not vetoing the resolution. Any responsible Israeli leader would have used ambiguities to say that Israel was already negotiating such a ceasefire and was awaiting Hamas's response to its proposals. But Netanyahu's position is to maintain his coalition with the support of the far right, which will allow him to retain his position.

New Hope party leader Gideon Saar has already resigned after Netanyahu refused to appoint him to the war cabinet.

What does the extreme right mean in Israel?

Gideon Saar is effectively launching his campaign to be prime minister. He has been a long-standing opponent of Netanyahu on the right. He ran for the leadership of Likud, Netanyahu's party, in 2019. Then, in 2021, he broke away and sided in the Knesset with the broad anti-Netanyahu coalition that was able to govern for 12 months before being defeated in November. of 2022.

Saar wanted to be in the war cabinet where key decisions are made. But far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir insisted that if Saar was appointed, he would have to be appointed too. But Benny Gantz, one of the three voting members of the emergency war cabinet, had made it a condition that no one from the far right could join.

Netanyahu is not yet willing to break relations with Gantz, whose moderate policy favors foreign politicians. Saar knows this, but he wants to position himself as the next leader of the right when the Netanyahu era ends. In the medium term, this simply illustrates how feverish Israeli politics is.

Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet, has threatened to resign over a proposed law that would exempt ultra-Orthodox Jews from being drafted into the military. The law would also put the government at odds with Israel's highest court.

What are the risks to the legitimacy of Netanyahu's leadership?

It is quite clear that Benny Gantz is trying to break up the coalition. The ultra-Orthodox parties in the ruling coalition really have one goal: to maintain enormous government funding for their communities. This is something that bothers most Israelis, especially given their blanket exemption from military service.

This is particularly serious when Israel is at war and more than 250 soldiers have been killed in combat and thousands have been wounded. Gantz knows that the last thing the Israel Defense Forces needs is thousands of reluctant recruits, but he also knows that it is an issue of justice that appeals to the vast majority of Israelis.

Gantz remains popular in polls and he undoubtedly sees this issue as a weak point in Netanyahu's alliance.

Both Sephardic and Ashkenazi chief rabbis have said that if the exemption is ended, those affected should leave the country. Such statements give Gantz the opportunity to be seen as a patriot and take the shine off Netanyahu's nationalist credentials. So Netanyahu faces pressure from the ultra-Orthodox far right, from the more moderate right of Gideon Saar and from Benny Gantz in the center.

But the more these forces circulate, the more Netanyahu redoubles his rhetoric in favor of a complete victory over Hamas, viewing war as his path to political survival.

Netanyahu reacted to the US abstention by canceling a visit by a high-level Israeli delegation to Washington for talks. But Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was already in Washington and will reportedly meet with US officials.

How does it affect the unity of the Israeli government?

The Biden administration asked the Israeli delegation to discuss in detail plans for the proposed Rafah operation that Netanyahu has been talking about for weeks.

Americans wanted to know how this could be achieved without causing catastrophic civilian casualties among the 1.2 million people – mostly displaced – taking refuge there. But instead of sending military experts, the delegation was led by Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer (a Netanyahu confidant) and Tzachi Henegbi, a former right-wing firebrand who now serves as national security adviser.

Neither are military experts and Dermer has not even served in the IDF. It would be interesting to hear what they might have said to the US military team they were there to brief. But these armchair generals will now stay at home.

Meanwhile, Gallant continues his talks in Washington as if nothing had happened. Despite being a Likud member, Gallant has steered his course with particular care since March last year, when Netanyahu tried but failed to fire him over his opposition to the government's unpopular judicial reforms, which Gallant said would jeopardize national security. .

Having survived in part thanks to massive demonstrations in his support, Gallant has occupied a unique position in the cabinet, as someone who stood up to Netanyahu and survived. He is beloved in Washington and Netanyahu is likely relieved to keep lines of communication open with the Biden administration. But it is difficult to hide the contrast between Gallant's meetings and Netanyahu's resentment over Washington's decision to abstain from the Security Council vote.

What is the future of relations between the United States and Israel?

The United States has only seen Israel as a strategic ally since early 1970s. Until then relations had been more problematic. When Israel declared its independence in 1948, a US arms embargo was in effect. In the 1948 war it was Soviet weapons through Czechoslovakia that gave Israel its military advantage.

In the 1950s and 1960s, it was mainly France that supplied weapons to Israel, including nuclear weapons.

The Suez affair of 1956 – in which Israel attacked Egypt in coordination with Britain and France – was denounced by the United States. But after the 1967 Six-Day War, the United States became more engaged and, interestingly, has always promoted normalization between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The Camp David Accords of 1978, when Israel and Egypt recognized each other, underscored this.

My interpretation of this is that the entanglement of the United States with Israel since the 1970s has had as aim promote a particular order in the Middle East. That is why we need to understand relations between Israel and the United States in a regional context.

The Biden administration knows that you cannot end a war without a peace plan, and that must mean a Palestinian state alongside Israel. United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, began his recent visit to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and considered Riyadh as fundamental to a stable Middle East. Saudi recognition of Israel comes at the price of taking concrete steps towards a Palestinian state.

The more Netanyahu refuses to pay that price, the longer Gaza's agony will continue. And in the meantime, the United States will have to increase its pressure on the Israeli government.

To read the note in the original language, click here

*Written by John Strawson, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of East London.

*The Conversation is an independent, nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.