In the evening of November 13, hundreds of Israelis were protesting against the reported ceasefire with Gaza.
Protesters in the town of Sderot were blocking roads and burning tires. Some of them chanted “Bibi go home,” using a nickname for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Confrontations were reported between protesters and policemen.
Police said they were working to restore order, saying they would “allow freedom of expression and lawful protest” but not “disturbance of public order, violence towards policemen and civilians and riots on major roads.”
Approximately 500 people took part in the protest according to reports. Hadashot TV news claimed that southern residents were planning further protests and road blocks in Tel Aviv on November 14th.
הדיווחים על הפסקת האש הוציאו עשרות מתושבי שדרות לרחובות. "ממשלה רופסת" הם קוראים pic.twitter.com/nKkfRNPZxw
— matan tzuri מתן צורי (@MatanTzuri) November 13, 2018
Zionist Union leader Avi Gabbay expressed support for the protesters, saying it was a “justified” response to the government “forsaking” them. According to him, the government failed the southern residents by “neglecting” the issue of Gaza since the 2014 war.
He, however, did not extend hawkish calls. “This is not the time for another fragile truce,” he said. “This is the time for a true diplomatic initiative in Gaza, that will lean on the recommendations of the security establishment,” he said.
“Israel maintains its right to act. Requests from Hamas for a ceasefire came through four different mediators. Israel responded that the events on the ground will decide [if a ceasefire will go into effect],” an anonymous senior Israeli diplomatic official was cited by Times of Israel.
According to Channel 10 news on November 13th, at least four ministers opposed the decision for a truce during the security cabinet meeting. The report said Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, Environmental Protection Minister Ze’ev Elkin, and Education Minister Naftali Bennett proposed an alternative response, but it was rejected by the other ministers.
An anonymous source told Times of Israel that no vote to determine next steps took place during the meeting.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the security cabinet released a statement that read, “The security cabinet discussed the events in the south. The cabinet received briefings from the IDF and defense officials on the [IDF] strikes and widespread operations against terror targets in Gaza. The cabinet instructed the IDF to continue its strikes as needed.”
Hamas and other Gaza groups said that they had accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Israel. Israel did not provide an immediate comment and the terms of the deal were undisclosed.
Terms of the deal appeared to be modest. Daoud Shehab, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad militant group, said each side would promise quiet in exchange for quiet.
“It’s a mutual commitment to the cease-fire,” he said. “From our side, we responded positively to the Egyptian endeavor on the condition that the occupation does the same.”
Residents of Gaza started celebrations following the announcement. At a demonstration staged in the rubble of Hamas’ TV station, demolished by an Israeli airstrike, crowds chanted the name of Hamas’ military wing. Shops reopened and cars jammed the streets.
Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official, expressed Hamas’ commitment to the cease-fire but warned that “our hands are on the trigger” if Israel violates the agreement.
Al Jazeera cited Mohammed Daraghmeh, a columnist and political analyst, said this latest escalation could be an important moment in the future of the Gaza blockade.
“Both sides have realized that after a series of wars they need to have a different approach. After a period of calm in Gaza, Israel finally allowed Qatari money to be funneled to Gaza, to have oil imported, to offer some relaxation amid the blockade. This escalation has come at a critical moment.”
Thus, the 25-hour escalation that brought the Gaza strip on the brink of an all-out war ended, with Israeli protesters considering the ceasefire as a loss, while Palestinians view it as their victory.
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on November 14th. According to him, the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza is “a capitulation to terror.”
“Despite the difference in opinion, I tried to stay a faithful member of the government for as long as possible … but it has failed,” Lieberman said. He said he also fiercely objected to Israel’s allowing Qatar to deliver $15m in aid to Gaza last week.
“From my point of view there are two critical points that made it impossible for me to carry on; the $15m dollar that went into the Gaza Strip taken in suitcases from Qatar … what would happen with the money after it has gone across the border,” the now former minister said.
“It went to the families of the terrorists who fought on the border with Israeli soldiers throwing grenades. These families are the first who are going to receive part of this $15m – in other words we are … giving terrorists money,” Lieberman added.
“The second point is regarding the ceasefire … I understand all of the reasons and all of the information [behind the decision], but I would not be able to look in the eyes of the people who are within the range of Hamas, who are taken prisoner by Hamas. Hamas has to understand that nobody should go close to the frontier.”
Hamas called Lieberman’s resignation a “political victory for Gaza.”
Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said it marked “recognition of defeat and failure to confront the Palestinian resistance”, adding that “Gaza’s steadfastness sent a political shockwave” through Israel.
Lieberman’s resignation also shows that somehow the hawkish voices in the Israeli leadership are being silenced.