Benny Gantz resigns from Israeli war cabinet - sparking headache for PM Netanyahu

9 June 2024, 20:29

Centrist stalwart Benny Gantz has resigned from Israel's war cabinet
Centrist stalwart Benny Gantz has resigned from Israel's war cabinet. Picture: Alamy

By Chay Quinn

Centrist stalwart Benny Gantz has resigned from Israel's war cabinet - accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of mismanaging the war in Gaza and putting his own political survival over his country.

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The move does not immediately pose a threat to Mr Netanyahu, who still controls a majority coalition in parliament.

But the Israeli leader becomes more heavily reliant on his far-right allies.

Mr Gantz said Mr Netanyahu is "preventing true victory" and "making empty promises", adding that the country needs to take a different direction as he expects the fighting to continue for years to come.

Read More: Hamas say three hostages including American citizen killed in Israeli raid which freed four others

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The popular former military chief joined Mr Netanyahu's government shortly after the October 7 Hamas attack in a show of unity.

His presence also boosted Israel's credibility with its international partners.

Mr Gantz has good working relations with US officials.

He had previously said he would leave the government by June 8 if Mr Netanyahu did not formulate a new plan for post-war Gaza.

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel's three-member War Cabinet announces his resignation in a statement in Ramat Gan,
Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel's three-member War Cabinet announces his resignation in a statement in Ramat Gan,. Picture: Alamy

Mr Gantz scrapped a planned news conference on Saturday night after four Israeli hostages were dramatically rescued from Gaza earlier in the day in Israel's largest such operation since the eight-month war began.

At least 274 Palestinians, including children, were killed in the assault, Gaza health officials said.

Mr Gantz called for Israel to hold elections in the autumn, and encouraged the third member of the war cabinet, defence minister Yoav Gallant, to "do the right thing" and resign from the government as well.

Mr Gallant has previously said he would resign if Israel chose to reoccupy Gaza, and encouraged the government to make plans for a Palestinian administration.

On Saturday, Mr Netanyahu had urged Mr Gantz not to leave the emergency wartime government.

"This is the time for unity, not for division," he said, in a direct plea to Mr Gantz.

Mr Gantz's decision to leave is largely "a symbolic move" due to his frustration with Mr Netanyahu, said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a news conference at the Sheba Tel HaShomer Hospital in Ramat Gan, Israel on Saturday,
Mr Gantz accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of mismanaging the war in Gaza and putting his own political survival over his country. Picture: Alamy

He noted it could further increase Mr Netanyahu's reliance on extremist, right-wing members of his government, led by national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and finance minister Bezalel Smotrich.

"I think the outside world, especially the United States, is not very happy about it, because they see Gantz and his party as the more responsible people within this government," said Mr Rahat.

Mr Gantz's resignation came hours after a spokesperson for Hamas claimed that three hostages were killed in an IDF raid which rescued four others.

Hamas said on Telegram: "We inform you that against these, your army killed three prisoners in the same camp, one of whom holds American citizenship."

The raid was undertaken by the Israel Defense Force and rescued four civilians who were kidnapped from the Nova music festival on October 7.

Noa Argamani, 25, Almog Meir Jan 21, Andrey Kozlov 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 40, were rescued in a complex special daytime operation.

The hostages were rescued in two separate locations in the heart of Nuseirat, officials said.

Meanwhile, Hamas claims that at least 300 Palestinians were killed in airstrikes in the same area, according to local medics. It marks one of the bloodiest single incidents of the war.

It is unclear if the hostage rescue and air assault were part of the same operation.

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