Monday 20 May 2024 - 23:36

20-Day Ultimatum: Gantz’s Stab in the Back of Netanyahu

Story Code : 1136464
20-Day Ultimatum: Gantz’s Stab in the Back of Netanyahu
Benny Gantz, an opposition leader who has been in the war cabinet, after eight months of cooperation with Netanyahu government has set a deadline for continuing his work with the government.

In a speech on Saturday night, Benny Gantz announced his preconditions for continuing his presence in the war cabinet. 

"Netanyahu has until June 8 to announce a comprehensive strategy for the war so that the residents of the north can return to their homes by September... We have been living a war for survival since October 7," he said.

The Israeli official added that "this war has laid bare big problems and weaknesses of the Israeli society. Recently, we have witnessed contradictions in the war coalition... Today, a minority group has taken power in Israel and is leading it. Those who are in power have behaved with cowardice and some politicians only care about their own interests."

He went on that Israel needs " immediate changes in the policy and cannot leave the situation be this way. Leaders should have a more comprehensive view of the situation, identify risks and challenges and seek a more comprehensive internal strategy."

"We should seek to form a European-Arab coalition to manage the Gaza Strip. We must return the northerners there and strengthen the peace with Saudi Arabia. Then we will prosecute Hamas and all our enemies everywhere and at all times," he said.

He warned that if Netanyahu continues his current path, they will seek elections, and if he fails to meet their demands, they will exit the coalition. He admitted: " The recent proposed agreement is balanced and expandable." 

Gantz also disclosed that there is no coordination between him and the Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, but they work for the interests of Israel, while admitting that they did not take the correct approach in the economic case.

Gantz also called for the immediate formation of a fact-finding committee regarding the October 7 failure. 

Gantz's ultimatum came after Israeli defense minister last week opposed the war cabinet strategy and publicly called on Netanyahu to come up with a clear strategy by returning the army forces to fight Hamas in areas where the movement's forces were believed to have been driven out. These remarks disclosed the gaps inside the Israeli government over Gaza war and infuriated Netanyahu and his hardline ministers. 

Sources in the war cabinet said that relations between the members have deteriorated significantly recently, particularly due to the lack of strategic decisions and the lack of progress on the prisoners swap deal. These sources went on that with political divisions broadening, the collapse of the war cabinet and subsequently the government seems more likely than ever.

Hardliners attack Gantz 

The hardline ministers of the cabinet who never tolerate opposing voices regarding Gaza war immediately after Gantz's ultimatum attacked him unprecedentedly. 

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir in reaction to Gantz said "he is a smalltime leader and a bigtime deceiver" and from the first moment of joining the government, his main goal was to break it apart, and his visits to Washington were only a small part of his conspiracies.

"The man who hosted Abu Mazen [Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas] in his home, brought in workers from Gaza, led the gas surrender agreement with Lebanon, removed essential security barriers in the US, and endangered Golani’s soldiers ‘out of concern for the Palestinians’ is the last one who can offer security alternatives," he said. 

Meanwhile, the communication minister in the Israeli cabinet called on Gantz to resign, saying: "He wants Palestinian Authority to rule over Gaza. The war cabinet has long been leaning towards leftism and has become a means of undermining the prime minister and the right-wing government. 

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, another hardline minister, said: "We will win with Gantz or without him, thanks to the heroic fighters and the people of Israel."

Despite all the criticism against Gantz by the hardliners, the leader of the opposition, who seized the opportunity to intensify the gap in the cabinet, threw his backing behind Gantz's. Yair Lapid said on Saturday evening and before Gantz's speech that he should announce his departure from the "worst coalition cabinet" in the history of this regime in his speech. 

"Gantz must declare that he will not participate in the betrayal of prisoners, the displacement of Israelis in the north and the destruction of our economy... Gantz must announce that he will not help Netanyahu stay in power and will leave the current cabinet led by him and demand elections," Lapid who served as PM in a coalition cabinet with Gantz, said. 

Signs of gap in the war cabinet over war 

The broadening political gap over the course of war comes as the Israeli forces have suffered major blows from Al-Qassam Brigades in various Gaza areas like Jabalia in the north to Rafah in the south, and these gaps can negatively impact the battleground developments. 

The statements of hardline ministers show that all war decisions are made only by Netanyahu and his friends within the government, and people like Gantz are practically marginalized from the decision-making circle, and the formation of the war cabinet and the inclusion of some former security officials in it is meant to reduce political pressure of the opposition. The Hebrew-language media have repeatedly reported that Netanyahu alone decides on the Gaza war and sacrifices the interests of the Israelis for his own political interests.

Ameer Makhoul, an expert of Israel affairs, told Cairo Today website that the gap in the war cabinet started months ago, but Gantz's reluctance to take a bold stand prevented it from collapsing. If the government or the war council had collapsed two months ago, the Rafah operation might not have happened now, because Netanyahu carried out this mission with full responsibility. So, dissolution of the government and moving to an election is likely." 

With Gantz ultimatum and Gallant's opposition to Rafah operation, it looks like that if Netanyahu and his cabal rejects Gantz's conditions, the war cabinet and then the government will collapse. This is because Gantz and a number of senior commanders present in the war cabinet work with Netanyahu for security reservations and for war against Hamas, and if they feel ignored by the hardliners and feel risks to the Israeli existence, they are likely to be joined by other members of the government. 

Although, according to experts and Hebrew media, it is now only Netanyahu who continues the war in Gaza for his own political interests and does not listen to anyone, with the intensification of political divisions at a time public protests against the cabinet are intensive, the conditions grow more dire for Tel Aviv leaders. 

Netanyahu needs national cohesion and unity for continuing the war, but if the protests broaden, the government's focus will be distracted from Hamas fight. From another aspect, the experience of the past two years shows that the opposition leaders, including Gantz, are adept at mobilizing protests and building influence in the army, and it is likely that the opposition will return to this path to overthrow the Netanyahu government. In recent months, mutiny has spread among the army reserve forces over Gaza war deployment, and the opposition can strengthen the dimensions of this disobedience and seriously challenge the cabinet. 

With the deepening of the security and political gaps that cast their negative impacts on the military forces, the Palestinian groups can sieze the opportunity of Israeli weakness to boost their stances on the negotiating table. Certainly, the withdrawal of the opposition figures from the war cabinet and the subsequent defeat on the battleground will force Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire and prisoner swap with Hamas. Meanwhile, since the hardliners tie their presence in the coalition government to continuation of war with Hamas, end of war and accepting a ceasefire will put an end to Netanyahu’s political life.