Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting in his offices on Sunday in Jerusalem.(Photo: Israeli Government Press Office via Getty Images)
JERUSALEM -- Throughout his long political career, Israel's prime
minister has earned a reputation as a tough talker. An ardent hawk who
wrote a book about how to defeat terrorism, Benjamin Netanyahu has
previously threatened to attack Iran, topple Gaza's Hamas leaders and
strike hard at Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
But only now,
after seven years in power, he has finally pulled the trigger,
unleashing an offensive to stop Gaza rocket salvos. The public and even
his political opponents have all lined up behind him.
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fiasco involving heavy Israeli casualties, the operation should help
Netanyahu coast to victory in the upcoming Israeli elections.
his more dovish predecessors have carried out daring military
operations in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon and reportedly beyond,
Netanyahu's reign has surprisingly been categorized by restraint. Just a
month ago, in a speech before parliament, he boasted that as prime
minister, he "didn't wage any unnecessary wars or any wars at all."
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comments appeared to be a swipe at his predecessor, centrist Ehud
Olmert, who launched two wars in his three years as prime minister
between 2006 and 2009.
Despite his bellicose language, Netanyahu has proven to be a careful commander in chief, said political analyst Hanan Kristal.
had a short fuse. He was a diplomatic dove and a military hawk, while
Bibi is a diplomatic hawk, but he's not a military hawk," he said, using
Netanyahu's nickname. "In the opposition, he's a populist. There's no
war he doesn't support or encourage. But once he gets to power, he's
cautious, he consults, he doesn't shoot from the hip."
Netanyahu refrained from major retaliation against rocket attacks from
Gaza against southern Israel. Kristal said he ultimately gave the order
only after a public outcry and after making sure the top military brass
supported the move.
Netanyahu claims he has never before had to
act militarily, since his tough stance has deterred Israel's enemies
from testing him. Moshe Arens, Netanyahu's onetime political mentor,
said this time Hamas aggression toward Israel forced his hand.
wasn't his decision alone to make. It wasn't a matter of initiative, it
was forced by reality," said Arens, a former defense minister and
foreign minister. "He's a smart guy with lots of knowledge. He's
seasoned and prepared to handle the situation."