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Israeli opposition leader, ex-army chief Gantz quits war Cabinet

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Israeli opposition leader and former military chief Benny Gantz resigned from Israel’s war Cabinet Sunday, citing mismanagement by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and accusing him of prioritizing his own “political survival.”

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz speaks to the media announcing his resignation, Ramat Gan, Israel, June 9, 2024. (AFP Photo)
Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz speaks to the media announcing his resignation,
Ramat Gan, Israel, June 9, 2024. (AFP Photo)

The move does not immediately pose a threat to Netanyahu, who still controls a majority coalition in parliament. But the Israeli leader now becomes more heavily reliant on far-right allies who oppose the latest U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

“Unfortunately, Netanyahu is preventing us from achieving true victory, which is the justification for the painful and ongoing price,” Gantz said. He added that Netanyahu was “making empty promises,” and the country needs to take a different direction as he expects the fighting to continue for years to come.

The popular centrist politician Gantz joined Netanyahu’s government shortly after the Hamas attack in a show of unity. His presence also boosted Israel’s credibility with its international partners. Gantz has good working relations with U.S. officials.

Gantz had previously said he would leave the government by June 8 if Netanyahu did not formulate a new plan for postwar Gaza.

He scrapped a planned news conference Saturday night after four Israeli hostages were rescued from Gaza in a military operation that killed at least 274 Palestinians, including children.

Gantz called for Israel to hold elections in the fall and encouraged the third member of the war Cabinet, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, to “do the right thing” and resign from the government as well.

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

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

Gantz’s decision to leave is largely “a symbolic move” due to his frustration with Netanyahu, said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He noted it could further increase 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,” Rahat said.

On Sunday evening, Ben-Gvir demanded a spot in the war Cabinet, saying Gantz and the smaller Cabinet had bungled the war effort due to “dangerous” ideological decisions.

The conflict was triggered by the Oct. 7 Hamas incursion, which resulted in the death of more than 1,170 people in Israel, according to official Israeli figures.

Out of 252 people taken hostage that day, 120 are still being held inside the Gaza Strip, including at least 43 who the army says are dead.

Israel has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, in the Gaza Strip since, according to the Gazan Health Ministry.