Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz resigns as Gaza conflict rages

The former general and defence minister said Netanyahu is preventing them from a 'real victory'


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Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 10 Jun 2024, 8:42 AM

Last updated: Mon 10 Jun 2024, 8:44 AM

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government on Sunday (June 9), heaping domestic pressure on the Israeli leader as the war in Gaza rages.

The former general and defence minister announced his resignation from the emergency body after failing to get a post-war plan for Gaza approved by Netanyahu, which he demanded in May.

The centrist politician's departure is not expected to bring down the government, a coalition including religious and ultra-nationalist parties, but it marks the first major political blow to Netanyahu eight months into the Gaza war against Palestinian Hamas militants.

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Gadi Eisenkot, also a former army chief and member of Gantz's party, followed him out of the war cabinet, leaving the body with only three members. The war cabinet takes all major decisions about the conflict.

"Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing to a real victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart," Gantz said.

"I call on Netanyahu: set an agreed election date. Don't let our people be torn apart."

The Israeli premier responded within minutes, saying: "Benny, this is not the time to abandon the battle -- this is the time to join forces."

On Saturday, hours after Israeli forces rescued four hostages from Gaza, Netanyahu had urged Gantz not to resign.

Gantz was a former army chief and was one of Netanyahu's main rivals before joining the war cabinet. He had repeatedly called on Israel to reach a deal to secure the release of all hostages and to make it a "priority".

Though Netanyahu's government is not under any threat of collapsing, Gantz's leaving does make it lose the only "moderate element" that was in the overall coalition, said political analyst Mairav Zonszein.

"Netanyahu will be left just with the far right ministers, and it's yet to be seen what role they will play," she added.

Netanyahu is already under growing pressure from his far-right coalition allies who have threatened to quit the government if he goes ahead with a hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden last month.

Ben Gvir and Smotrich have insisted the government should not enter into any deal and should continue the war until the goal of destroying Hamas has been achieved.

The coalition rules by a slim majority of 64 out of 120 seats in the Israeli parliament and depends on far-right votes.


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