International Relations and Domestic Politics Following an Invasion: Netanyahu and Israel
Historically, international relations has been concentrated on the relationship between two or more states in the international system. In fact, some have argued that there has been little attention to domestic politics, as well as non-state actors throughout much of the history of international relations. And some theories, such as elements of Realism today continue to assume that domestic politics matter little in the context of international relations.
Others however say that domestic politics matter a great deal, that leaders can affect their domestic support levels depending on their actions internationally. One recent case to examine is that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his recent invasion into Gaza. This conflict recently ended when Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire. However, following the conflict, Benjamin Netanyahu has received criticism domestically. In an article written by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Jeffrey Heller for Yahoo, they point out that many within the Israeli government and others in Israel are upset that Netanyahu’s decision to invade Gaza did not end as they expected. For example, Shimon Shiffer wrote in Yedioth Ahronoth, saying:
“After 50 days of warfare in which a terror organization killed dozens of soldiers and civilians, destroyed the daily routine (and) placed the country in a state of economic distress…we could have expected much more than an announcement of a ceasefire.” They also point out that he went on to say that:
“We could have expected the prime minister to go to the president’s residence and inform him of his decision to resign his post.”
Now unfortunately the sentiment in Israel has been to support Netanyahu’s actions against Hamas, often without any mention of what the conflict did to Palestinian families, and what the occupation continues to do to the lives of those living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As we see with this quote, there is not mention of the thousands of Palestinians killed, the impact on their daily lives, or how they continue to live under horrible conditions while under occupation. But in the case of Israel, with Netanyahu’s coalition having a number of members from the right who have continued to take hawkish positions regarding the Palestinians, there has not been as much criticism levied against IDF actions, and the outcome of the most recent conflict seems to not be what they were hoping for.
It will be interesting to see whether the coalition government will take it out on Netanyahu by asking him to resign, and thus, reforming a new coalition. In addition, it will also be important to see how Netanyahu frames what transpired in Gaza not only immediately following the conflict, but also in the weeks and months ahead, particularly as many continue to call for punishment against Israel for crimes committed in Gaza.
Thus, as we see here, domestic politics, particularly in a state where leaders are elected, matters. Political leaders’ popularity and ability to stay in office depends on their actions, something that one doesn’t see necessarily in an authoritarian regime. There, a leader’s domestic decisions also matter, but only in that they need to maintain just enough of their core backers happy. If citizens don’t revolt, and if enough key members of the military and government are still supporting the leader, then they can arise from a political decision, as controversial and problematic as it is, without a great deal of harm to their political survival.