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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

War-cabinet minister threatens to collapse Israeli government

Benny Gantz has threatened to quit the government if the Israeli PM doesn’t adopt a new strategy for Gaza war within three weeks

Benny Gantz, the centrist member of Israel’s three-person war cabinet, has vowed to resign from the government if it doesn’t commit to a new action plan for Gaza, which includes the end of Hamas rule, by June 8. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the ultimatum, describing it as “washed up words.”

The development is widely believed to have further destabilized the emergency government that was set up after the Palestinian militant group’s incursion into Israeli territory last October.  About 1,200 people were killed and over 200 taken hostage in that attack, which was followed by an Israeli retaliatory military response against Hamas in Gaza.

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Speaking in a televised address on Saturday, Gantz – Netanyahu’s long-time political rival, a retired general whose National Unity party joined the PM’s coalition after Hamas’ attack – demanded that the government approve a six-point plan to achieve “strategic goals.”

Among these are bringing hostages home, toppling Hamas rule, demilitarizing the Palestinian enclave and establishing “an international civilian governance mechanism for Gaza, including American, European, Arab and Palestinian elements” that would not include Hamas and won’t be under the authority of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The plan also calls for normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.

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“If you [Netanyahu] put the national over personal…you will find in us partners in the struggle,” Gantz declared. “But if you choose the path of fanatics and lead the entire nation to the abyss, we will be forced to quit the government.”

Netanyahu hit back by saying that Gantz chose to “issue an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of issuing an ultimatum to Hamas.”

The conditions he set “are washed-up words whose meaning is clear: the end of the war and a defeat for Israel, the abandonment of most of the hostages, leaving Hamas intact and the establishment of a Palestinian state,” the PM’s office said, in a statement cited by media.

Gantz made his comments just days after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – the third member of the war cabinet set up in the early days after the October 7 Hamas attack – criticized the Netanyahu government’s failure to address the question of a post-war strategy for Gaza.

On Sunday, National Unity MPs Matan Kahana and Pnina Tamano-Shata told Ynet news website that the June 8 ultimatum given by the party leader Gantz is “not a date set in stone.”