Israeli centrist politician Benny Gantz resigns from Netanyahu's war cabinet

Israeli centrist politician Benny Gantz resigns from Netanyahu's war cabinet

Israeli minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet on Sunday, accusing him of fumbling the war effort against Hamas.

Gantz's resignation represents the withdrawal of the only centrist power in Netanyahu's far-right coalition amid a months-long war in Gaza.

During his announcement, the National Unity chairman called on Netanyahu to set an election date.

"To ensure a real victory, it is appropriate that in the fall, a year (after) the disaster, we will go to elections that will eventually establish a government that will win the people's trust and be able to face (Israel's) challenges," Gantz said.

"I call on Netanyahu," he added, "Don't let our people be torn apart."

The popular former military chief joined Netanyahu’s government shortly after the Hamas attack in a show of unity. His presence also boosted Israel’s credibility with its international partners. Gantz has good working relations with US officials.

Gantz had previously said he would leave the government by 8 June if Netanyahu did not formulate a new plan for postwar Gaza.

He scrapped a planned news conference Saturday night after four Israeli hostages were dramatically rescued from Gaza earlier in the day in Israel’s largest such operation since the eight-month war began.

At least 274 Palestinians, including children, were killed in the assault, Gaza health officials said.

Gantz called for Israel to hold elections in the autumn and encouraged the third member of the war Cabinet, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, to “do the right thing” and resign from the government as well.

Gallant has previously said he would resign if Israel chose to reoccupy Gaza and encouraged the government to make plans for a Palestinian administration.

On Saturday, Netanyahu had urged Gantz not to leave the emergency wartime government.

“This is the time for unity, not for division,” he said in a direct plea to Gantz.