During last week’s air war against Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had it comparatively easy. All he had to do was keep escalating attacks, and despite mount casualties among Gaza civilians, the war remained quite popular domestically, allowing him to pat himself on the back for “standing up to” Hamas and its feckless rockets.
But escalating day after day brought a ground invasion, and while that seemed popular on paper as well, the growing casualties among Israeli soldiers, including 25 soldiers killed through today, has the public quickly souring on the idea of war.
A nation with broad conscription, the Israeli media has offered intense coverage of every slain soldier, and images of young Israelis sent to die for a war with no clear objectives nor real endgame strategy is not selling well at all.
Netanyahu has feared the political risk of ending the war too soon, after being panned by hawks for stopping the 2012 war after only a week. Yet in continuing the war for the sake of avoiding peace, Netanyahu risks an unpopular war-for-nothing and no way to easily extricate himself.
Netanyahu’s Likud Party has long seen these Gaza wars as a political winner, but careening ever deeper into a conflict for conflict’s sake runs the risk of more Israeli soldiers dying, one thing that can derail public support for the invasion.