Major Israeli leader threatens to quit over conduct of war

 May 19, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

JERUSALEM – Benny Gantz, a current member of Israel's war cabinet, held a press conference Saturday evening during which he declared that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has until June 8 to come up with a "day after" plan for Gaza – or else he'll leave the government.

Gantz – currently also a "minister without portfolio," a party leader in his own right, a former alternate Israeli prime minister from 2020-2021, and a retired Army general – sharply criticized the conduct of the war, accusing Netanyahu of failing to provide clear leadership. As a result, he said, the war has been allowed to drift off course.

"Essential decisions were not made. Essential leadership decisions to ensure victory were not done. A small minority has taken over the command bridge of the Israeli ship of state and is steering her toward the rocks," Gantz said in a broadside against Netanyahu's right-wing coalition members, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Although he criticized the political leadership, Gantz was not short on praise for the men and women doing the actual fighting: "While Israeli soldiers are displaying incredible bravery on the front, some of the people who sent them to battle are acting with cowardice and a lack of responsibility."

"Personal and political considerations have infiltrated the holy of holies of Israeli security," Gantz said, dramatically.

The war cabinet, Gantz insisted, must approve a plan of action by June 8, or he will leave the coalition.

Gantz outlined the following provisions:

1. "Bring the hostages home."

2. "Topple Hamas' rule, demilitarize the Gaza Strip and gain Israeli security control [over Gaza]."

3. Alongside that Israeli security control, "create an international civilian governance mechanism for Gaza, including American, European, Arab and Palestinian elements – which will also serve as a basis for a future alternative that is not Hamas and is not [Palestinian Authority President] Abbas."

4. "Return residents of the north to their homes by September 1, and rehabilitate the western Negev (adjacent to Gaza, targeted by Hamas on October 7)."

5. "Advance normalization with Saudi Arabia as part of a comprehensive process to create an alliance with the free world and the West against Iran and its allies."

6. "Adopt a framework for [military/national] service under which all Israelis will serve the state and contribute to the national effort."

Gantz's attack came some 72 hours after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant – also a retired general, and who, during his army service, led the Southern Command, which has responsibility for Gaza – attacked Prime Minister Netanyahu amid the seeming lack of leadership from the top. Gallant, whom Netanyahu was about to fire in 2023 over his opposition to the Judicial Reform Bill, but reinstated after enormous public pressure, said he would not permit the IDF to be used to carry out military and civilian rule in Gaza. Gallant argued that it was in Israel's best interests for Gaza to be governed by non-Hamas "Palestinian entities," backed by "international actors."

Netanyahu and his acolytes came out strongly against Gantz's attack, accusing the minister of "issuing an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of issuing an ultimatum to Hamas."

The Netanyahu statement put three questions to Gantz, the answers to which, it said, would prove whether "Gantz prefers the national interest or is looking for an excuse to bring down the government:"

* Does Gantz want to finish the operation in Rafah, and if so, how is he threatening to bring down the emergency government in the middle of the operation?

* Does Gantz oppose civilian rule by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, even without Abbas?

* Is Gantz willing to accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank as part of a normalization process with Saudi Arabia?

The prime minister's stance was clear on these questions, according to the statement: Netanyahu was determined to destroy Hamas in Rafah, opposed any involvement of the PA in Gaza, and opposed a Palestinian state that would "definitely be a terror state."

From Gantz's right, Smotrich, Ben-Gvir and former Gantz ally MK Gidon Sa'ar accused him of bowing to American pressure, being part of the "concept" that led to October 7, and in Sa'ar's case, now criticizing the decisions of the coalition government of which he is a part.

Netanyahu is in an increasingly difficult political position, and the coalition that has held together until now is clearly fraying. Whether Gantz does indeed leave the coalition or not, former Labor leader Merav Michaeli was surely correct when she wrote on X that "the hostages don't have until June 8 to decide whether they are brought home or not."

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