Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz quits war Cabinet

June 9, 2024
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s key rival, Benny Gantz, announced Sunday that he is quitting the war Cabinet after a postwar plan for the Palestinian enclave failed to materialize.

Gantz’ resignation comes amid global condemnation of the Palestinian civilian death toll in the war on Gaza that has piled domestic and international pressure on Netanyahu.

Gantz announced his resignation in a televised event on Sunday, stating that Netanyahu stood in Israel’s way to “a real victory.”

“That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart, but with a whole heart,” Gantz said.

Netanyahu addressed Gantz in an X post following his resignation, saying, “this is not the time to abandon the campaign — this is the time to join forces.”

“Citizens of Israel, we will continue until victory and the achievement of all the goals of the war, primarily the release of all our hostages and the elimination of Hamas,” Netanyahu wrote.

Benny Gantz
Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel’s three-member War Cabinet, announces his resignation in Ramat Gan on Sunday.Ohad Zwigenberg / AP

During his resignation address, Gantz said there should be elections this fall “that will eventually establish a government that will win the trust of the people and be able to face challenges.”

“I call on Netanyahu: set an agreed election date. Don’t let our people be torn apart,” Gantz said.

In May, Gantz demanded that Netanyahu agree to a day-after plan for the war in Gaza and threatened to withdraw his National Unity party from the coalition on June 8 unless the prime minister had a plan for the enclave’s postwar governance.

Netanyahu missed the Gantz’ deadline after distancing himself from President Joe Biden’s cease-fire deal, presented last month as an Israeli proposal.

On Saturday, Netanyahu called on Gantz to remain in the coalition, saying in a post on X, “This is the time for unity and not for division.”

Widespread condemnation of the civilian death toll in the war on Gaza has escalated in recent weeks after dozens of people were killed in Rafah in an area where displaced civilians were sheltering in tents. On Saturday, an Israeli attack on central Gaza that rescued four hostages also killed over 270 Palestinians, bringing Gaza’s death toll to more than 37,000 since the start of the war last October, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

A U.N. top court has already ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah, and the latest round of civilian casualties, including two attacks on U.N.-run schools in the Nuseirat and Shati refugee camps, will only deepen hostilities between it and Israel.

The U.N. added both Israel and Hamas to a global blacklist of states and armed groups that harm children during wartime. Last month, the U.N. said at least 7,797 children had been killed in Gaza. Netanyahu slammed the decision, saying the U.N. had “added itself to the black list of history when it joined those who support the Hamas murderers,” and repeated his claim that the Israeli military was the “most moral army in the world.”

In May, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court said he was seeking arrest warrants for both Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas leaders.

Gantz apologized to the families of the hostages during his speech Sunday, saying “we failed” to bring most of them home.

“The responsibility is also mine,” Gantz said. “I stand behind the outline we received in the War Cabinet, the principles of which were presented by President Biden, and demand from the prime minister the courage required to stand behind it and do everything to promote it.”

While Netanyahu’s government can survive if Gantz resigns, Netanyahu will be left further isolated in Israel and forced to rely on support from the far-right members of his government, leaving hopes for Biden’s proposal hanging by a thread.

Bezalel Smotrich, finance minister and chairman of the far-right Religious Zionist Party, said on X las week that he would “not be part of a government that agrees to the proposed outline and ends the war without destroying Hamas.”

Itamar Ben-Gvir, national security minister and leader of the far-right Jewish Power Party, called the proposal “a victory for terrorism” that would mean “absolute defeat,” and threatened on X “to dissolve the government” should Netanyahu agree to the proposal.



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