After dramatic hostage rescue, Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz resigns

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz has quit the emergency government in a sign of deepening divisions over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s post-conflict plans for Gaza.

Speaking during a news conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday where he announced his resignation, Gantz said the decision was made with a “heavy heart”.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Netanyahu is preventing us from approaching true victory, which is the justification for the painful ongoing crisis,” he said.

Considered by some to be a potential challenger for power in Israel, Mr. Gantz called on Netanyahu to set a date for elections.

Netanyahu responded with a post on X: “Benny, this is not the time to quit the campaign, this is the time to join forces.”

Gantz is a political rival of Netanyahu and a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

His centrist National Unity party was in opposition until 11 October 2023 when, after the start of the war following Hamas’s 7 October attacks, he agreed to form an emergency government with Netanyahu.

National Unity holds five posts in the emergency government.

Current opposition leader Yair Lapid backed Gantz’s decision as “important and right” on social media.

Immediately after the announcement, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded a place in the war cabinet.

Ben-Gvir is part of a right-wing coalition that has threatened to quit and collapse the government if Israel accepts a ceasefire proposal put forward by US President Joe Biden.

Gantz’s influence in the government was widely seen as a counterbalance to that of far-right members of Mr Netanyahu’s coalition.

Last month, Gantz set a deadline of 8 June for Netanyahu to lay out how Israel would achieve its six “strategic goals”, including the end of Hamas rule in Gaza and the establishment of a multinational civilian administration for the territory.

The Prime Minister dismissed the comments at the time as “washed-up words” that would mean “defeat for Israel”.

A retired Army General and frequent critic of Mr. Netayanhu, Gantz had been a member of Israel’s key decision-making “war cabinet”, along with the prime minister and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

During the news conference, Gantz said he was not only personally resigning from the government, but also withdrawing from the National Unity party that he chairs.

The move will not topple the Israeli government, since Netanyahu will still hold a comfortable majority of 64 in the 120-seat Knesset.

It does, however, further isolate the Prime Minister and lay bare the deep political divisions over how he is running the war.

The resignation also comes one day before American Secretary of State Antony Blinken makes a three-day trip to the region, where he plans to visit Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Qatar to press for a ceasefire agreement.

In a separate development on Sunday, Israel’s army announced the resignation of a senior commander who headed the IDF’s Gaza division over what he called his failure to prevent the 7 October attacks.

Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld is the first IDF combat commander to step down since the attacks.

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