Israeli war cabinet minister’s party proposes vote to dissolve parliament

Benny Gantz’s party has proposed holding early elections after demanding PM Netanyahu agree to post-war Gaza plan.

Israeli Emergency cabinet minister and opposition politician Benny Gantz addresses the press in Kiryat Shmona, Israel November 14, 2023.
Gantz joined Netanyahu's government shortly after Israel launched its latest assault on the besieged Gaza Strip [File: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters]

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz’s centrist party has proposed holding a parliamentary vote on dissolving the Knesset, but it was unclear whether he has enough support to bring about early elections.

The move on Thursday followed an ultimatum that Gantz issued this month, demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agree to a plan for post-war Gaza by June 8. He threatened to quit the coalition if no such plan was forthcoming.

Gantz joined Netanyahu’s government shortly after Israel launched its war on Gaza on October 7, the day Hamas led attacks on southern Israeli communities.

Gantz’s centrist bloc split up in March, and his party does not on its own control enough seats in parliament to bring down the ruling coalition.

“The head of the National Union Party, Pnina Tamano-Shata, has put forward a bill to dissolve the 25th Knesset. This follows the request of party leader Minister Benny Gantz to move forward in broad agreement to an election before October, a year since the massacre,” Gantz’s party said in a statement.

Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party countered: “The dissolution of the unity government is a reward for [Hamas leader Yahya] Sinwar, a capitulation to international pressure and a fatal blow to efforts to free our hostages”.

It added that Israel needs unity and disbanding the government would hurt the war effort. Israel’s assault on Gaza has been met with widespread global condemnation as the Palestinian death toll has exceeded 36,000 and continues to mount.

An election is not scheduled before the final quarter of 2026.

Netanyahu has also come under criticism from Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for failing to rule out an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza after the war.

The prime minister’s cabinet has also seen recurring antigovernment protests with many families and supporters of people taken captive on October 7 demanding a ceasefire that ensures the return of their loved ones held in Gaza.

Gideon Levy, a columnist at Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, said those excited by the push from Gantz’s party for new elections should temper their expectations that Netanyahu is soon on his way out.

“I suggest not to get too excited and those who want to see Netanyahu stepping down should wait before opening the champagne bottles because this government without Benny Gantz still has a solid majority,” Levy told Al Jazeera. “Benny Gantz can declare whatever he wants – it’s quite meaningless.”

Israel’s assault has already devastated Gaza’s urban landscape, displaced most of the territory’s people, and sparked a humanitarian catastrophe and widespread hunger.

Israeli tanks were spotted in the heart of Rafah, a city in southern Gaza, on Wednesday despite an order from the International Court of Justice for Israel to end its attacks on the overcrowded city.

Israel says it must dismantle Hamas’s last remaining battalions in Rafah and also said it will seek indefinite security control over the enclave.

But Hamas has rejected any post-war plan that excludes the group, reiterating that it will remain in Gaza.

Israel’s offensive has killed at least 36,224 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to health officials in the enclave. The people killed in Israel during the October 7 attacks number 1,139.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies