Israeli ministers gang up on Netanyahu with their Gaza war demands

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Israeli ministers gang up on Netanyahu with their Gaza war demands

Benny Gantz threatens to resign from the government if the prime minister fails to agree to a six-point plan for the war by 8 June as Smotrich demands full Israeli control of the territory

Defence Minister Gallant and War Cabinet Minister Gantz. Credit: Elad Malka
Defence Minister Gallant and War Cabinet Minister Gantz. Credit: Elad Malka

Three senior Israel ministers issued demands to Benjamin Netanyahu last week, revealing a crisis in the government over its handling of the war in Gaza and the path forward.

Defence minister Yoav Gallant was the first to call on the prime minister to draw up a post-war plan for the territory.

“I call on Netanyahu, to make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza strip, that Israel will not establish military governance int he Gaza strip, and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza strip will be raised immediately,” Gallant said in a televised speech to the nation on Wednesday.

Then war cabinet minister Benny Gantz followed suit on Saturday, echoing Gallant but issuing an ultimatum to Netanyahu.

Gantz said Netanyahu must “formulate and approve a plan of action” to achieve six strategic goals by 8 June or he would resign from the government.

“A war is only won with a clear and realistic strategic compass,” Gantz said, listing the following goals: bringing the hostages back from Gaza, topping Hamas and demilitarising Gaza Strip, creating 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, returning displaced residents of the north to their homes by September 1, and rehabilitate the western Negev (the parts that were attacked on October 7), promising normalisation with Saudi Arabia and lastly adopting a framework for [military/national] service under which all Israelis will serve the state and contribute to the national effort.

Gantz challenged the prime minister: “The moment of truth has arrived, the hour of decision has arrived. The Netanyahu of a decade ago would have done it. Can you do the right and patriotic thing today?”

Netanyahu quickly dismissed the demands, saying Gantz had issued an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of Hamas.

Gantz’s demands, Netanyahu fired back, would mean an “end to the war and defeat for Israel, abandoning the majority of the hostages, leaving Hamas in power, and creating a Palestinian state.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks in a press conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 10, 2023. JINI via Xinhua ISRAEL-TEL AVIV-NETANYAHU-PRE

Netanyahu then asked Gantz three questions;

  • Does Gantz want to see the operation in Rafah through to its end, and if so, why is he threatening to topple the unity government during the IDF operation?
  • Does he oppose Palestinian Authority rule in Gaza, even if Mahmoud Abbas is not involved?
  • Would he support a Palestinian state as part of a normalisation process with Saudi Arabia?

Gantz replied that he advocated for a military operation in Rafah months ago, and that he didn’t think the Palestinian Authority should govern Gaza, nor should there be a Palestinian state.

Take Gaza and southern Lebanon

On Sunday, Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich issued his own demands to Netanyahu while sharply criticising Gantz whose ultimatum he claimed would to stop the war, result in military defeat in the north and end up with the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Instead, Smotrich demanded that a “public ultimatum must be issued to Hezbollah that they completely stop firing and withdraw all forces to beyond the Litani River.”

“If the ultimatum is not fully met, the IDF will launch an assault deep in Lebanese territory to defend the northern communities, including ground entry and Israeli military takeover of the southern Lebanese area. The way to bring the [evacuated] residents home to the north is through a military decision with a devastating assault on Hezbollah, its infrastructure and the destruction of its power,” he added.

As for Gaza, Smotrich once again argued that Israel must take full control of Gaza, in the centre, south and north of the enclave, while controlling the Gazan side of the border with Egypt to prevent smuggling of weapons.

Smotrich has previously called on Gaza to be re-settled by Israelis, while advocating for “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians to other nations.

“A small country like ours cannot afford a reality where four minutes away from our communities there is a hotbed of hatred and terrorism, where two million people wake up every morning with aspiration for the destruction of the State of Israel and with a desire to slaughter and rape and murder Jews wherever they are,” he said in January.

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