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Israel’s PM has dissolved his war cabinet. What does that mean?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has disbanded his war cabinet days after the resignation of one of its three members, Benny Gantz. 

So does the move bolster or weaken the prospects of a ceasefire being called in Gaza anytime soon? 

The three-member cabinet, part of Israel’s larger security cabinet, was the key decision-maker behind the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) military offensives against Hamas.

It comprised Mr Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, and Mr Gantz — the prime minister’s principal rival and leader of the centrist Israel Resilience Party. 

Mr Gantz, a retired general and member of parliament, was widely seen as the more moderate voice countering domination from far-right voices in the Netanyahu government pushing for fighting to continue. 

His withdrawal on June 9 effectively made the cabinet defunct, so Mr Netanyahu’s dissolution of it on Monday was largely a formality. 

The move will allow the prime minister to consolidate his influence over the Israel-Hamas war, which likely diminishes the odds of a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip anytime soon.

Three men wearing black sitting side by side on a table. A blue and white Israeli flag is in the background.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and former cabinet minister Benny Gantz.

 (AP: Abir Sultan)

Why did Gantz quit?

The war cabinet was formed after Hamas’ October 7 offensive on southern Israel. 

Mr Gantz had joined with Mr Netanyahu and Mr Gallant in a show of unity.

At the time, Mr Gantz demanded a small decision-making body steer the war in a bid to sideline far-right members of the government.

His departure earlier this month came after months of mounting tensions over Israel’s strategy in Gaza, and disapproval over a lack of strategy after the termination of the conflict. 

He expressed disappointment over the slow progress bringing home Israeli hostages held by Hamas, accusing the prime minister of drawing out the war to avoid new elections and a corruption trial. 

He called on Mr Netanyahu to endorse a plan that — among other points — would rescue the captives and end Hamas’ rule in Gaza, which was turned down.

Mr Gantz said “fateful strategic decisions” in the cabinet were being “met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations”.

Could Israel’s wartime policies change?

The disbanding of the war cabinet only further distances Mr Netanyahu from centrist politicians more open to a ceasefire deal with Hamas.

Months of talks on a truce have failed to find common ground between Hamas and Israeli leaders, despite mediation from players such as Qatar, Egypt, and the US.

Both sides have been reluctant to fully endorse a US-backed plan that would return hostages, clear the way for an end to the war, and commence a rebuilding effort in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Netanyahu will now rely on the members of his security cabinet, some of whom oppose ceasefires entirely and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

After Mr Gantz’s departure, Israel’s ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, demanded inclusion in a renewed war cabinet.

A crowd of protesters holding up placards and flags.

Anti-government protests have ramped up in Israel after the conflict with Hamas broke out. 

 (AP: Ohad Zwigenberg)

Monday’s move may help keep Mr Ben-Gvir at a distance, but it cannot sideline him altogether.

The move also gives Mr Netanyahu leeway to draw out the war to stay in power. 

His critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government’s failures on October 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister’s popularity is low.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

“And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war.”


Posted Yesterday at 12:21amTue 18 Jun 2024 at 12:21am, updated 22 hours agoTue 18 Jun 2024 at 2:17am


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