Benny Gantz Quits War Cabinet, Calls for Elections

The moderates are gone.

AP (“Centrist Benny Gantz is quitting Israel’s war Cabinet, citing frustrations with Netanyahu“):

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel’s three-man war Cabinet, announced his resignation Sunday, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of mismanaging the war effort and putting his own “political survival” over the country’s security needs.

The move does not immediately pose a threat to Netanyahu, who still controls a majority coalition in parliament. But the Israeli leader becomes more heavily reliant on far-right allies who oppose the latest U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

“Unfortunately, Netanyahu is preventing us from achieving true victory, which is the justification for the painful and ongoing price,” Gantz said. He added that Netanyahu was “making empty promises,” and the country needs to take a different direction as he expects the fighting to continue for years to come.

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 U.S. officials.

Gantz had previously said he would leave the government by June 8 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 fall, and encouraged the third member of the war Cabinet, Defense 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.

Gantz’s decision to leave is largely “a symbolic move” due to his frustration with Netanyahu, said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He noted it could further increase Netanyahu’s reliance on extremist, right-wing members of his government, led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich.

“I think the outside world, especially the United States, is not very happy about it, because they see Gantz and his party as the more responsible people within this government,” Rahat said.

On Sunday evening, Ben-Gvir demanded a spot in the war Cabinet, saying Gantz and the smaller Cabinet had bungled the war effort due to “dangerous” ideological decisions.

Reuters (“Israel’s centrist minister Benny Gantz quits Netanyahu government“) adds:

While his coalition remains in control of 64 of parliament’s 120 seats, Netanyahu will now have to rely more heavily on the political backing of ultra-nationalist parties, whose leaders angered Washington even before the war and who have since called for a complete Israeli occupation of Gaza.

This would likely increase strains already apparent in relations with the United States and intensify public pressure at home, with the months-long military campaign still not achieving its stated goals – the destruction of Hamas and the return of more than 100 remaining hostages held in Gaza.
Polls have shown Gantz, a former army commander and defence minister, to be the most formidable political rival to Netanyahu, whose image as a security hawk was shattered by the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

Warning that the conflict in Gaza could take years, he urged Netanyahu to agree on an election date in the autumn, to avoid further political infighting at a time of national emergency.

It’s noteworthy that this happening in the immediate aftermath of the controversial hostage rescue raid is happenstance. Gantz had given Netanyahu until Saturday to issue a plan for the Day After and he had not delivered.

While I’m by no means an expert on Israeli politics, I would much rather have Gantz as prime minister than Netanyahu. Then again, I’d rather have a random person from the Haifa telephone book than Netanyahu. In the long run, it’s possible that this gambit forces new elections and that Gantz is able to form a governing coalition. In the short run, though, it certainly looks as though Netanyahu will be even more beholden to the crazies.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    For us Americans, accustomed to our two party system and unfamiliar with parliamentary systems, Israel’s politics looks pretty chaotic. However, as I count the votes the Blue-White Alliance doesn’t have the votes for Gantz to become Prime Minister. The choices are probably between Netanyahu and somebody worse (from our viewpoint) than Netanyahu.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Dave Schuler: Gantz clearly doesn’t have the votes in the current parliament. It’d be interesting to see what would happen if there were an election in the coming months, but Netanyahu won’t call one unless his coalition collapses.

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  3. JohnSF says:

    The key will be what happens within Likud.
    If Netanyahu’s personal unpopularity looks like terminal for their position, and/or they also think his failure to be serious about the post-operation phase in Gaza is too dangerous to be acceptable, some of Likud might bolt.
    It’s pretty widely thought that Yoav Gallant is far from happy with Netanyahu.
    If he walks, odds are the government falls.

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  4. wr says:

    I eagerly await Andy and MR’s explanation of how Gantz is either a Jew hater or a Hamas simp who knows nothing about war — and certainly much less than noted Special Forces Op Michael Reynolds.

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  5. Gustopher says:

    Three points:

    1. I wouldn’t call Gantz particularly moderate, just less severely right wing, and wanting an idea of what comes next. Take that as you will.

    2. It sounds less like the “moderates” have left and more like they never had any effect and are just formalizing the situation. Gantz wasn’t able to get the government to articulate any goals.

    3. Every time anyone mentions “the Day After” all I can think of is the 1980s miniseries about the aftermath of a nuclear war. (I’m sure there is some Hebrew phrase that is very distinct from “final solution” but which would translate into English as “final solution”, so at least they didn’t pick that)

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  6. just nutha says:

    @wr: For a change, I’m gonna side with MR and declare a cheap shot. Just yesterday, MR noted that Gantz departure was bad news.

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  7. just nutha says:

    @Gustopher: Thumbs up on point 2. I was searching for a way to say exactly that when the news came out.

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  8. wr says:

    @just nutha: Yeah, it was a cheap shot. You got me.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    I do enjoy the fact that you and Gus and DK are so utterly incapable of dealing with me without erecting straw men. Fills me with confidence when I see how intellectually flaccid you are.

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  10. Beth says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You can go ahead and add me to your list. I just don’t engage with you on this because it makes me sad.

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  11. dazedandconfused says:

    This may have been posted here before, an article by Andy Milburn on why the IDF is ill-configured “nation building”. All but certainly a factor in Gantz’s and Gallant’s extreme reluctance to engage in it in Gaza. Their demand for some kind of plan is, however, completely understandable. I imagine Bibi is dodging it the matter as everything I can think of is likely generate outrage from some quarter.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Beth:
    I don’t recall you resorting to straw men. But I also don’t recall you having a plan beyond feeling sad.

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  13. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Fills me with confidence when I see how intellectually flaccid you are.”

    And yet somehow I am able to make it through an entire message without needing to call anyone who disagrees with me an anti-semite. Maybe you think it’s flaccid thinking not to rely on vicious ad hominems instead of actually making a point. Hey, it works for Trump!

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  14. Andy says:

    I’m still traveling and very busy, but someone who shall remain nameless told me I was mentioned in the comments of this post, so a few brief thoughts:

    For months now, I’ve pushed back on rather weak arguments that Israel is intentionally engaging in genocide or whatever the crime-of-the-day accusation is because of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir in the government. The reason was that those two extremists were not in the war cabinet (and still aren’t), had no say over the conduct of the war, were not in positions of authority, and did not have the popularity or representation to dictate Israel’s conduct or goals. At best, they can try to veto by threatening to leave Netanyahu’s coalition.

    With Gantz and the unity government gone, that very well could change. We’ll have to see what happens with the war cabinet and any changes made, but those two could become much more influential.

    In the long run, it’s possible that this gambit forces new elections and that Gantz is able to form a governing coalition.

    Right now, Gantz’s party has become less popular, and in recent polls, the right-religious bloc is leading the left bloc. A majority of Israelis oppose elections in the near term.

    @wr:

    I eagerly await Andy and MR’s explanation of how Gantz is either a Jew hater or a Hamas simp who knows nothing about war — and certainly much less than noted Special Forces Op Michael Reynolds.

    As usual, you have nothing to say of substance on the OP, but the people like me you dislike still manage live rent-free in your head.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    I’ll bet a dollar you cannot correctly state my position and then logically explain your objections. You get yourself worked up and argue with yourself in the mirror then cast me in the role of bête noire. You’re a feels first guy, and frankly it doesn’t seem you go any deeper than your emotional reaction.

    What upsets you and the others in the echo chamber is that I pointed out very early that there was no solution. I was right. That was analysis, not cheerleading. It’s reality you don’t like, because if I’m right then all your posturing is irrelevant. We’re both watching the Hindenburg burn and you’re yelling, ‘Oh the humanity,” and I’m saying, “Yep, that sucker’s burning alright.”

    You think those people on the big burning bag of hydrogen are helped by you wailing? You want to do something useful, try thinking up a solution. You can’t. You don’t even try, you just leak emotion all over the place and mistake your feels for virtue.

    And of course there’s your fear as a Jew. The reason you are so upset by, and fixate on, any suggestion that anti-semitism plays any part at all in the reaction to Gaza, is because you’re around people you cannot bear to think might actually be anti-semites. You need to fit in. I don’t.

    The thing is, of course anti-semitism is part of the heat here. Please note the word ‘part.’ Can you see that word, or do I need to bold it? But you can’t even go that far, can you? Nope, there’s not a single Jew-hater anywhere in any part of the reaction to Gaza, not a one, because if there were you might have to start casting sidelong glances at your friends and co-workers.

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  16. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “What upsets you and the others in the echo chamber is that I pointed out very early that there was no solution. ”

    Let me state this as clearly as I can, since you seem to be incapable of understanding anything that you have actually written.

    Speaking only for myself and not for anyone in “the echo chamber,” what upsets me is that you fucking called me a fucking anti-semite.

    I don’t care about your views. I’m over it. You have decided that you are the only person in the world who knows anything about the Middle East, war, or the nature of mankind, and life is far too short to concern myself about that. And I’ve been trying to ignore it, because I do like engaging with you on just about any other issue, so why waste time with us just pissing each other off over things we have no control over?

    But you fucking called me an anti-semite. And now you’re just baffled that I’m pissed.

    I’m not “so upset by, and fixated on, any suggestion that anti-semitism plays any part at all in the reaction to Gaza.” I am upset by, and fixated on, the fact that because I disagree with you about the war you have publicly called me an anti-semite.

    I’ve been down these roads enough to know that your next move will not be to apologize. It will be to deny that you ever said such a thing and accuse me of being all about the feels or something, and if you really feel like playing games you’ll demand I quote you in full, at which point you’ll deny it again.

    Not playing that game. This isn’t rhetorical chicken for me. This isn’t part of the fun. You crossed a line. It’s like the time a former student literally called me a racist online because I said that Katherine Bigelow had the right to make the movie Detroit even though she’s white. Just as uncalled for, just as offensive. She’s dead to me forever.

    But she is a moron, and you are definitely not. I’m not going to waste my breath asking for an apology that will never come. But I am asking politely that you stop calling me an anti-semite, even if I have the gall to disagree with you.

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