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Gantz issues ultimatum to Netanyahu - formulate Gaza plan by June 8 or he will quit War Cabinet

Ultimatum provokes strong reactions from coalition members

Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference in Ramat Gan, May 18, 2024. (Photo: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, who joined the coalition without a portfolio following the start of the Gaza War, issued an ultimatum to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday evening to formulate a post-war plan for Gaza or else he would leave the coalition. 

Netanyahu’s coalition has declined in popularity following the start of the war and missteps over its judicial reform agenda. By entering the coalition and joining the War Cabinet with his National Unity party, Gantz brought the promise of stability to the government during a time of war by protecting the government from the threat of a no-confidence vote. 

On Saturday, however, Gantz appeared to speak for a large number of Israelis by demanding greater clarity regarding Israel’s plans for a post-war Gaza. 

Gantz is Israel's former minister of defense and also served as justice minister, deputy prime minister and IDF chief, among other roles. Since joining the War Cabinet, he has largely refrained from making public statements to counter Netanyahu, despite a few moments of obvious tension between the two political rivals. 

During a press briefing on Saturday night, Gantz lamented the rise of political considerations in the waging of the war against Hamas in Gaza.. He also presented Netanyahu with six demands, stating that the following must be met for him to remain in the emergency coalition government.

  • “Bring the hostages home.” 

  • “Topple Hamas rule, demilitarize the Gaza Strip and gain Israeli security control.” 

  • Establish “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 and is not [Palestinian Authority President] Abbas.” 

  • Return northern residents to their homes by Sept. 1 and rehabilitate the western Negev [near Gaza]. 

  • Promote normalization with Saudi Arabia as part of an alliance against Iran involving Western and free nations. 

  • Approve a new draft law “under which all Israelis will serve the state and contribute to the national effort.” 

During the briefing, Gantz said: “A small minority has taken over the command bridge of the Israeli ship and is leading it towards a wall of rocks. I stood here today to tell the truth, and the truth is hard.” 

The former IDF chief added, “We will not allow any outside power, friendly or hostile, to impose a Palestinian state on us.” 

Gantz also referenced his years of working alongside Netanyahu while leading the IDF, saying, “I have known you for many years as an Israeli leader and patriot. You are well aware of what needs to be done.”

The National Unity party leader said if Netanyahu chooses “to follow in the footsteps of Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Begin, and Rabin, you will find in us partners in the struggle. But if you choose to follow in the footsteps of fanatics and lead the entire nation into the abyss, we will be forced to quit the government.”

Gantz gave Netanyahu a deadline of Saturday, June 8 to formulate a plan to address the demands or else he would withdraw from the emergency coalition. 

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office released a statement following Gantz’s press briefing: “While our heroic fighters are fighting to destroy the Hamas brigades in Rafah, Gantz chooses to issue an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of issuing an ultimatum to Hamas.” 

Netanyahu accused Gantz of wanting to end the war with Hamas intact, and of trying to establish a Palestinian state. 

Channel 14 news anchor Sharon Gal accused Gantz of acting on behalf of U.S. President Joe Biden, with a reference to the story of Jacob and Esau from the Book of Genesis 27: “The voice is the voice of Gantz, but the hands are the hands of Biden and Blinken,” Gal said. “We have become a player in the US election campaign.” [Gen. 27:22] 

Jewish Power party leader Itamar Ben Gvir accused Gantz of subverting the government, saying since he joined the government he has “mainly been involved in attempts to dismantle it.” 

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich said Israel “will win with Gantz or without him, thanks to the heroic fighters and the people of Israel.” 

He also called on Netanyahu “to no longer halt our forces in Rafah or the central and northern Strip until we achieve all the aims of the war: destroy Hamas, return the hostages and remove threat, both in the south and in the north against Hezbollah.” 

Gantz’s office released a response to the criticism following his statement.

“If the prime minister had listened to Gantz, we would have entered Rafah months ago and completed the mission.” 

Gantz also denied that either he or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was seeking a Palestinian state. 

“There is no intention to establish a Palestinian state, and this is not the demand of the Saudis,” his office said. “Gantz, unlike Netanyahu, did not return Hebron or announce support for the two-state solution at Bar Ilan.” 

The War Cabinet is expected to meet Sunday evening, following Gantz’s ultimatum.  

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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