Experts say Netanyahu may now be forced to rely more on his right-wing allies.

Jerusalem:

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz resigned from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Sunday, piling domestic pressure on the Israeli leader in anger over the war in Gaza.

The former general and defense minister announced his resignation from the emergency body after Netanyahu failed to win approval for a post-war plan for Gaza, which he had demanded in May.

The central politician’s departure is not expected to topple the government, which includes religious and ultra-nationalist parties, but is Netanyahu’s first major political setback eight months into the Gaza war against Palestinian Hamas militants. .

Experts say Netanyahu may now be forced to rely more on his right-wing allies.

Gaudi Eisenkot, a former army chief and also a member of Gantz’s party, followed him out of the war cabinet, leaving the body with only three members. The War Cabinet takes all major decisions about conflicts.

“Netanyahu is preventing us from moving toward real victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with heavy hearts,” Gantz said.

“I call on Netanyahu: Set a date for a unanimous election. Don’t let our people be torn apart.”

The Israeli prime minister responded within minutes, saying: “Benny, this is not the time to give up the war – this is the time to join forces.”

Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners, National Security Minister Atmar Ben-Goverr and Finance Minister Bezalel Smutrich, both also reacted quickly to Gantz’s resignation.

Ben Gower said he had “issued a demand” to Netanyahu to join the war cabinet.

Smutrich criticized Gantz, saying that “there is no less dignified act than to resign from a government in time of war” and that “hostages are still dying in the tunnels of Hamas”.

Campaign group the Forum of Hostages and Missing Families said the country “will not forgive leaders who release hostages”. Gantz apologized to the families of the prisoners, adding that “we have failed the results test”.

On Saturday, hours after Israeli forces rescued four hostages from Gaza, Netanyahu urged Gantz not to resign.

Gantz, who turned 65 on Sunday, was seen as a favorite to form a coalition in the event that Netanyahu’s government is toppled and early elections are called.

His centrist National Union Party last week introduced a bill to dissolve Israel’s parliament and hold early elections.

– hostage ‘preference’ –

The former army chief, one of Netanyahu’s main rivals before joining the war cabinet, has repeatedly called on Israel to make it a “priority” to secure the release of all hostages.

Since a week-long cease-fire in November, which saw the release of several hostages, Israel has failed to reach a further agreement and continues its intense military campaign in Gaza.

“Israel clearly has not made it a priority, so this was the first major break when Gantz indicated he would leave,” said political analyst Miro Zonzen.

He said that while there was no danger of Netanyahu’s government falling, Gantz’s departure would leave him with the only “moderate element” in the overall coalition.

“Netanyahu will be left with only far-right ministers, and it remains to be seen what role they will play.”

Netanyahu is already under increasing pressure from his far-right allies who have threatened to withdraw if he goes ahead with a hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden last month. .

Ben Gavier and Smutrich have insisted that the government should not make a deal and continue fighting until the goal of destroying Hamas is achieved.

The coalition rules with a slim majority of 64 of the 120 seats in the Israeli parliament and depends on far-right votes.

The war in Gaza began on October 7 with a Hamas attack on southern Israel that killed 1,194 people, mostly civilians.

The militants also took 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, of whom the military says 41 have been killed.

Israel’s retaliatory military operation has killed at least 37,084 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

(Other than the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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