Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his resignation on Wednesday in protest at a Gaza ceasefire, weakening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative coalition government.
“Were I to stay in office, I would not be able to look southern residents in the eye,” Lieberman told reporters, whilst referring to Israelis in the south who Israel claim are subjected to a surge in Palestinian rocket attacks before Tuesday’s truce took hold.
Lieberman said his resignation, which will go into effect 48 hours after he submits a formal letter to Netanyahu, also withdraws his far-right Israel Beitenu party from the coalition.
In Palestine, Hamas saw this as a mini victory, Lieberman’s departure was celebrated on streets of Gaza City, Palestinian burned Lieberman’s photo and some motorists handed out candies to passersby in celebration.
“Lieberman’s resignation is a recognition of the defeat before the growing force of the Palestinian resistance,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “It also showed a state of weakness that has overcome the Israelis.”
meanwhile, Netanyahu will take over the defence portfolio himself, his party said. The loss of Israel Beitenu’s five seats will leave him with control of just 61 of the 120 seats in parliament, a year before Israel’s next election.
Political commentators had speculated that Netanyahu, who has high approval ratings despite being dogged by multiple corruption investigations, might bring forward the ballot.
They also saw in Lieberman’s decision to quit a bid to poach votes from Netanyahu and far-right cabinet rival Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, ahead of an election.