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Israeli Minister Benny Gantz Resigns From War Cabinet, Dealing Blow To Netanyahu

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Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz has resigned from Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, delivering a blow to the prime minister, who has been celebrating the rescue of hostages held in Gaza.

Gantz, considered Netanyahu’s main political challenger, stated he was quitting eight months after the October 7 Hamas attacks because “the situation in the country and in the decision-making room has changed.”

He accused Netanyahu of prioritizing his own political considerations over a post-war strategy for the Gaza Strip, claiming that “fateful strategic decisions are met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations,” and urged the prime minister to hold an election in the coming months.

Gantz’s decision fulfills an ultimatum he gave the prime minister last month, calling on him to lay out a new plan for the war against Hamas by June 8. Gantz had been expected to resign on Saturday but postponed the announcement following news that Israeli forces had rescued four hostages in an operation that Gazan officials said left more than 270 Palestinians dead.

Despite Netanyahu’s call for unity and his plea for Gantz to remain in Israel’s emergency government, Gantz proceeded with his resignation. Netanyahu reiterated that his door remained open to any political party ready to share in the burden of fighting the war against Hamas and ensuring the security of Israeli citizens.

Gantz’s resignation does not immediately endanger Netanyahu’s government, as his party was not part of the prime minister’s coalition, which retains a majority with 64 seats in the 120-member Knesset.

However, it leaves the war cabinet, established four days after Hamas’ October 7 attack, without representation from any party other than Netanyahu’s Likud. The only other remaining member with decision-making power is Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, also from Likud, although far-right Israeli National Security Minister Ben Gvir has demanded to join the war cabinet following Gantz’s announcement.

Gantz’s decision comes amid growing pressure from Israel’s Western allies and families of hostages held in Gaza to end the war and bring back the captives. Eight months since the war began, Israel has yet to achieve its stated objectives, with much of Hamas’ top leadership still at large and over 100 hostages held in the enclave.

The United States has repeatedly urged Netanyahu to present a tangible post-war plan for Gaza. US President Joe Biden, who laid out a three-pronged Israeli peace deal proposal last week, has suggested that Netanyahu may be benefiting from prolonging the conflict.

Gantz, a 64-year-old former defense minister, had last month called on Netanyahu to submit a plan that includes the elimination of Hamas, the return of hostages from Gaza, the establishment of an alternative government in the enclave, the return of displaced Israelis from the north, and progress on normalization with Saudi Arabia. Netanyahu rejected Gantz’s threat, arguing that his ultimatum would harm Israel.

In April, Gantz called for early elections to be held as soon as September, ahead of the one-year anniversary of the war, stating that “Israeli society needs to renew its contract with its leadership.” According to opinion polls, Gantz often surpasses Netanyahu in popularity. A survey published Friday by the Israeli Maariv newspaper showed support for Gantz at 42%, compared to 34% for Netanyahu.

The war cabinet, which Gantz was a member of, operates independently from the broader Israeli government and is responsible for making decisions related to the fighting in Gaza. As the war dragged on, with displaced residents of northern Israel unable to return home and hostages still captive in Gaza, Gantz may have realized that staying in the cabinet could hurt his popularity.

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