Netanyahu's Key Rival Exits War Cabinet: What Does This Mean For Israel? (Video)

By Greg Moriarty | Wednesday, 12 June 2024 08:30 PM
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Image Credit : Times of Israel GPO Kobi Gideon

In a dramatic turn of events, Benny Gantz, a senior member of Israel's war cabinet, has resigned, signaling a significant lack of confidence in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his approach to the ongoing eight-month conflict with Hamas.

According to The Associated Press, Gantz's departure does not immediately pose a threat to Netanyahu, who continues to command a majority coalition in parliament. However, the Israeli leader now finds himself increasingly dependent on far-right allies who reject the recent U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal and advocate for the continuation of the war.

Gantz, a centrist figure widely regarded as Netanyahu's primary political adversary, stepped down following escalating tensions within the war cabinet over Israel's strategy in Gaza. On October 7, Hamas militants killed approximately 1,200 individuals in southern Israel and took around 250 hostages back to Gaza. In response, Netanyahu committed to two objectives: defeating Hamas and rescuing the hostages.

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However, as the war has dragged on, many Israelis, including Gantz, have expressed growing frustration over the lack of progress in securing the hostages' return and establishing a cease-fire agreement. They argue that Netanyahu has prioritized his political survival over the nation's interests, extending the war to evade new elections and his own corruption trial.

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Gantz, whose popularity has surged since the war's onset, issued an ultimatum to Netanyahu last month. He threatened to exit the government on June 8 if Netanyahu did not support a plan to repatriate hostages, terminate Hamas' rule, demilitarize the Gaza Strip, establish an international administration of civilian affairs in Gaza, normalize relations with Saudi Arabia, and expand military service to all Israelis. When Netanyahu failed to back the plan, Gantz announced his resignation, stating that "fateful strategic decisions" were met with "hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations."

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Gantz's exit from the war cabinet reverts him to his pre-war position as the opposition leader in Israel's parliament. Despite this, Gantz, a longstanding rival of Netanyahu, called for elections in the fall during his resignation speech. He also urged the third member of the war cabinet, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, to "do the right thing" and resign.

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Gantz's resignation removes a moderate voice from Israel's far-right coalition. His National Unity party joined the emergency government in the aftermath of the Hamas attack in a display of unity. The departure of Gantz, a former defense minister highly respected in Washington, will likely embolden and empower Israel's ultranationalist ministers who have vehemently opposed all cease-fire agreements.

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Two of the most extreme ministers within Israel's unruly government, Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, have advocated for the removal of Palestinians from Gaza and the re-establishment of Israeli settlements there, a policy the war cabinet has thus far rejected.

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In a desperate plea, Netanyahu urged Gantz not to resign, stating, "This is the time for unity, not for division." However, with Gantz's resignation, Netanyahu may now feel compelled to disregard the U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal to maintain his government and retain power.

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The proposed cease-fire includes a phased release of hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, a surge of humanitarian aid into Gaza, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory, and a reconstruction effort. The future of this proposal, and indeed the region, remains uncertain as Israel grapples with the fallout from Gantz's resignation and the ongoing conflict with Hamas.

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