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Opposition leaders praise Gantz leaving gov’t as right-wingers clamor for his position

Ben Gvir demands Gantz's former War Cabinet seat

Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid during a discussion and a vote on a bill to dissolve the Knesset, at the assembly hall of the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022 (Original photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90).

The leaders of Israel’s opposition parties welcomed the return of Benny Gantz and his National Unity Party to their ranks after Gantz announced his resignation in a statement on Sunday evening.

With Gantz’s exit, the government returns to its original composition of five right-wing and religious parties holding a majority of 64 out of 120 seats. These include Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, the ultra-Orthodox Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, Religious Zionism, and Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit).

Opposition leader Yair Lapid called Gantz’s move “important and correct,” adding: “It’s time to replace this extremist and failing government with a government that will restore security for the people of Israel, bring the hostages home, rebuild the economy and restore Israel’s international standing.”

Avigdor Liberman, leader of the right-leaning Yisrael Beytenu party, wrote that Gantz’s exit was “better late than never” adding that the time had now come for a “Zionist coalition.”

In his statement on Sunday, Gantz called for new elections.

While commending Gantz’s decision to resign, the Labor party's new leader, Yair Golan, lamented it had come “too late.”

Golan had been on the receiving end of a side swipe during Gantz’s statement when he called on all reserve soldiers to continue their service, despite potential misgivings about the government.

“Benny Gantz and National Unity have direct responsibility for everything that has happened in the country since they joined the government,” said Golan.

“Benny Gantz’s decision to give artificial resuscitation to the most dangerous and extreme government in the country’s history turned out to be a serious strategic error,” he continued, further accusing Gantz of legitimizing a government of “fascists and Kahanists.”

Meanwhile, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir lost no time and immediately demanded to take Gantz’s former spot in the War Cabinet, saying it was time to include those who “warned in real-time against the conception and viewpoint that everyone today accepts was wrong.”

“It’s time to make decisive, courageous decisions,” he said, adding that Gantz’s withdrawal was irresponsible and motivated by “political reasons.”

“There is nothing less statesmanlike than resigning from government in a time of war,” wrote Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in a sarcastic play of words on the Hebrew name of Gantz’s party, Hayamin Hamamlakhti or “The Statesmanlike Right.”

“This is exactly what [Hamas Gaza leader Yahya] Sinwar, [Hezbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah, and Iran were aiming for,” Smotrich charged.

While other coalition members, including Justice Minister Yariv Levin, sharply criticized Gantz, Shas leader Arye Deri said he “deeply regretted” Gantz's move.

“This is not the time for political bickering or an election campaign that will divide the people,” said Deri, who usually sits in as an observer in the War Cabinet.

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

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