Moderate politician Benny Gantz resigns from Israeli war cabinet

09 June 2024 , 21:19
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Moderate politician Benny Gantz resigns from Israeli war cabinet
Moderate politician Benny Gantz resigns from Israeli war cabinet

Move does not immediately pose a threat to Benjamin Netanyahu, but PM will now be more reliant on far-right allies

The Israeli politician and former military chief Benny Gantz has followed through on a threat to resign from Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency war cabinet, leaving the prime minister more reliant than ever on far-right elements of his coalition government.

Gantz, a major Netanyahu rival, former defence minister and leader of the centre-right National Unity party, joined the three-man war cabinet as a minister without portfolio in the aftermath of Hamas’s 7 October attack, a move he said was for the sake of the country’s unity. 

But as Israel’s war effort in Gaza dragged on, disagreements over strategy and how best to bring the 250 Israeli hostages home spilled into the open, culminating in Gantz accusing the prime minister of pushing aside strategic considerations for his own political survival and issuing an ultimatum of 8 June to present concrete “day after” plans for the Gaza Strip. 

Gantz delayed his expected resignation by a day after the unexpected rescue of four Israeli hostages in an operation that the health ministry in Gaza said killed 274 people and injured another 698. The withdrawal of his party also means Gadi Eisenkot, an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general and war cabinet observer, is stepping down.

“Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing towards a true victory,” he said in a televised address on Sunday night. “For this reason we are leaving the emergency government today, with a heavy heart, yet wholeheartedly.”

Gantz also called on Netanyahu to set a date for elections, and added: “Do not let our nation tear apart.”

The move does not immediately pose a threat to Netanyahu, as the prime minister still controls a majority coalition in parliament. It does, however, affect the Israeli government’s respectability on the international stage; Gantz is well liked in Washington, where he was seen as a useful brake on Netanyahu, and his absence means the prime minister’s far-right allies are likely to now have more sway over the trajectory of the war in Gaza and the growing threat of war with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The extremist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has already asked Netanyahu for Gantz’s seat on the war cabinet.

Netanyahu took to X in the wake of Gantz’ announcement, saying that the time was to “join forces” rather than quit.

Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, said: “Gantz and Eisenkot’s decision to leave the failed government is important and correct.

“The time has come to replace this extreme and reckless government with a sane government that will lead to the return of security to the citizens of Israel, to the return of the abducted, to the restoration of Israel’s economy and international status,” he added.

Netanyahu and his defence minister, Yoav Gallant, are the only two remaining members of the war cabinet, and also often do not see eye to eye. The prime minister is now said to be considering shuttering the war cabinet and reverting to a former model in which security issues are first discussed in a limited forum before being prese

James Smith

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