Gantz’s exit from the war government leaves Netanyahu in the hands of the ultras

Gantz’s exit from the war government leaves Netanyahu in the hands of the ultras

The departure of former General Benny Gantz from Israel’s war cabinet surprised no one on Sunday. Weeks ago, the leader of the Blue and White party conditioned his continuation of executive power on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presenting a plan for post-war Gaza. The Hebrew leader followed him and Gantz bid him farewell. Although the resignation has more of a symbolic effect than a practical one, many inside and outside Israel are beginning to tremble. Without the most moderate member of the war cabinet, Netanyahu is left alone with his Defense Minister, Yoav Galant, and the chances are increasing that the far-right partners in the ruling coalition will dictate the next horizons that must be opened in this war.

Since it was a government formed after the October 7 attacks, which worked in parallel with the coalition government with the far right also led by Netanyahu, the prime minister did not lose his majority. Unlike the opposition leader, the centrist Yair Lapid, Gantz agreed to be part of this new executive branch on the condition that the ultra-conservative ministers Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, and Itamar Ben Gevi, the national security minister, were banned from participating in its deliberations. In an attempt to strengthen national unity after the aggression and after months of polarization in the streets, Netanyahu joined and created a war government alongside Gantz and Gallant and with other former senior military officials as observers. Two of them also submitted their resignations on Sunday.

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“Gantz gave Netanyahu a safety net after October 7 in exchange for keeping major decisions out of the reach of the extreme right, but his role in the government was essentially a scapegoat for the stagnation of the war,” analyst Anshel Pfeffer reported in Haaretz newspaper. . “Now the safety net [de Netanyahu] “Israel’s immediate future is completely up in the air,” he added. From a practical point of view, the prime minister can continue to govern because he has a 64-seat majority in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The ministers assured Netanyahu that they would vote again with the coalition in the Legislative Council.

But in the streets, a large section of Israeli society expressed its opposition to this political alliance. Practically from the beginning of the war and even during the previous months of mass protests, Gantz was the favorite of the population. Aware of his popularity, the former member of the war cabinet called on Netanyahu to hold elections in the fall, and also encouraged Gallant to “do the right thing” and resign from the government. Although a section of the people is also demanding this, it is unlikely that the Prime Minister will agree to call new elections which will, with great certainty, mean the end of his term. “Gantz’s departure has an impact on Netanyahu’s legitimacy domestically and internationally,” Avi Mayer, former editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post, told CNN.

He added, “Gantz’s presence in the war government gave him that legitimacy because he had a feeling of national consensus, and with his departure this feeling disappears.” Now, Netanyahu has become more dependent on conservative ministers. Several diplomats told the Haaretz newspaper that the presence of Gantz and the former Comptroller General of the Military Cabinet and Minister Gadi Eisenkot helped Israel ward off some international pressure on it and persuade influential European countries not to adopt a more punitive stance against him. “Now it will be difficult to continue this support for Western countries,” explained one diplomat, who noted that Gallant remained the only reliable partner in the war cabinet.

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Concern in Washington

Even before the war, Western governments expressed concern about Netanyahu’s alliances with far-right politicians, and now ministers, such as Smotrich and Ben Gvir. With the ongoing fierce military operation, which has claimed the lives of more than 37,000 Gazans, this fear is on the rise. In Washington, Gantz was his favorite interlocutor. For this reason, the former general, when making his decision, informed the White House before Israeli society. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel, where he also plans to meet with Gantz. For the administration of US President Joe Biden, the path forward is more uncertain than ever. To the point that they are considering reaching an agreement with Hamas that does not include Israel to release five prisoners who hold American citizenship, according to NBC News.

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