Gantz Quits Israel Government After PM Fails to Meet Demands

(Bloomberg) -- Benny Gantz resigned from Israel’s emergency government and called for elections, criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his handling of the war against Hamas.

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The departure of Gantz, a Netanyahu rival and former general, won’t cause the ruling coalition to collapse. But it deprives the government of a moderate voice during the war that began after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, leaving Netanyahu more reliant on his right-wing coalition partners.

The prime minister and his allies control 64 out of the 120 seats in parliament.

Following Gantz’s resignation, far-right party leader Itamar Ben Gvir, who holds six seats in Netanyahu’s coalition, posted a letter on X demanding to be added to the war cabinet in Gantz’s place.

“The time has come to make brave decisions, achieve real deterrence and bring security to the residents of Israel,” Ben Gvir wrote.

Gantz, one in a three-person war cabinet that included Netanyahu, said in a televised news conference that the prime minister was preventing Israel from achieving “true victory” in its war against Hamas, saying that “fateful, strategic decisions are met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations.”

He called for an election in the fall, as Israel marks the first anniversary of the attacks, “that will lead to a true unity government.”

Read: Understanding the Roots of the Israel-Hamas War: QuickTake

In a post on X, Netanyahu wrote that “Israel is in an existential war on multiple fronts.”

“Benny, this is not the time to abandon the campaign — this is the time to join forces,” he wrote.

Gantz postponed his announcement by a day, after the Israeli military freed four hostages in an operation in central Gaza. More than 270 Palestinians were killed in the operation, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

In his speech, Gantz said that the military campaign will last years and that he can not make “empty promises” guaranteeing an easy and quick victory.

Cease-Fire Deal

He said that a true victory puts “bringing home the hostage above political survival, combines military success with political and civil initiative,” and should involve replacing Hamas and establishing a regional alliance against Iran led by the US and the entire Western world.

Gantz said he supports the cease-fire deal approved by the war cabinet and “whose principles were presented by US President Joe Biden. “I demand the Prime Minister to gather the necessary courage to stand behind it and do everything to promote it,” he said and promised to back such plan as an opposition leader.

Three weeks ago Gantz announced that he would leave the war cabinet by June 8 unless Netanyahu met a long list of demands which were not met.

Gantz had sought to bring in a coalition of Arabs, Palestinians, Americans and Europeans to manage civilian affairs in the coastal strip and return Israelis who’ve been evacuated from the north because of ongoing battles with Lebanon’s Hezbollah to their homes by September. He said Netanyahu needs to promote relations with Saudi Arabia and come up with an elusive plan for conscripting religious men.

Gantz, a former defense minister and former chief of the General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, has been ahead of Netanyahu as a future prime minister in most polls held since the beginning of the war in October.

Separately, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the Middle East on Monday, with plans to meet Egypt’s president in Cairo before traveling on to Israel, where he’ll meet Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping another 250. Israel’s response — aimed at returning the hostages and uprooting Hamas as a military and political entity — has killed some 35,000 Palestinians, according to Hamas officials, who don’t distinguish between fighters and civilians.

--With assistance from Janine Phakdeetham.

(Adds Blinken’s travels to Mideast in penultimate paragraph.)

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