Benny Gantz resigns from Israel’s government over Gaza

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Opposition politician Benny Gantz has resigned from Israel’s emergency government and called for early elections, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of mishandling Israel’s war in Gaza.

In a speech on Sunday evening, Gantz, a centrist former general who joined Netanyahu’s coalition in the aftermath of Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, said he had decided to leave the government because the premier was preventing Israel “from progressing towards a true victory”.

“In the autumn, a year after the disaster, we need to hold elections that will establish a government that will win the trust of the people,” he said.

“I call on Netanyahu: set an election date.”

Gantz’s departure follows months of tensions within Netanyahu’s coalition with far-right and ultrareligious groups over the course of the war, with Israel still far from its goals of destroying Hamas and securing the release of the roughly 120 hostages still held by the militant group in Gaza.

Gantz said last month that he would leave the government if Netanyahu did not agree to a new plan for the war and its aftermath by June 8. Netanyahu instantly rejected his demands, accusing Gantz of issuing “an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of issuing an ultimatum to Hamas”.

But after Gantz’s departure — which the former general postponed by a day following the rescue of four Israeli hostages in Gaza on Saturday — Netanyahu called on him to change his mind. “Benny, this is not the time to abandon the campaign — this is the time to join forces,” he wrote on X.

Since Netanyahu’s coalition holds 64 seats in Israel’s 120-seat parliament even without Gantz and his National Unity party, the former general’s departure will not automatically topple the government or trigger elections.

However, it is likely to change the dynamics in Netanyahu’s coalition. While Gantz’s positions on many issues relating to the war — such as his support for an assault on Rafah — did not diverge much from Netanyahu’s, his presence provided a counterbalance to ultranationalists such as finance minister Bezalel Smotrich and national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

“The international pressure on Netanyahu will probably increase as he won’t have the protection of having [centrists like] Gantz . . . in the war cabinet,” said one diplomat.

“But ultimately he still has the numbers. Unless the rightwing decide to leave, or drag him so far [on policies] that he has to say no, it looks like he will be OK for now.”

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