Israel’s Netanyahu dissolves war cabinet

Decision follows resignation of centrist Gantz and will disappoint hardliners angling to expand influence on war in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced the end of Israel’s six-member war cabinet.

Reports on Monday said the Israeli leader had announced the decision at a meeting of the political security cabinet the previous evening. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners have been pushing for a new war cabinet to be established after the more centrist Benny Gantz quit the emergency government.

Nationalist-religious Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who have demanded Israel must continue its bombardment of Gaza despite calls for some restraint from allies including the United States, had called for a new war cabinet to be formed featuring coalition party leaders.

However, Netanyahu has reportedly turned them down.

“The cabinet was in the coalition agreement with Gantz, at his request. As soon as Gantz left – there is no need for a cabinet any more,” Netanyahu said, according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.

The Israeli premier is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, who had been in the war cabinet.

‘Sole control’

Gantz’s resignation from the government withdrew the only centrist power in the embattled leader’s far-right coalition, amid the months-long assault on Gaza.

Claiming that the Netanyahu government failed to present a post-war plan for the besieged and bombarded Palestinian territory was an obstacle to “true victory”, Gantz has called for an election, with the prime minister facing severe pressure amid calls for a deal with Hamas to secure the release of captives held in Gaza.

However, the Israeli leader is also under pressure from his hardline coalition partners.

According to Israeli media, Ben-Gvir appealed in a letter to Netanyahu last Thursday to expand the war cabinet.

The letter reportedly said the Israeli war has over the past eight months been “conducted in secret”, through “limited forums that change their names and definitions in a loop, all for the purpose of sole control over decisions and avoiding discussion of other positions that would challenge the old conception”.

A new war cabinet with a heavy influence enjoyed by Smotrich and Ben-Gvir would have further tested relations with international partners, first and foremost the US, which has called for Israel’s military to refrain from a full ground invasion of the southern city of Rafah and for increased aid shipments.

At the same time, Washington continues to supply Israel with arms and there has been little hint that Netanyahu is ready to pull back from the onslaught in Gaza.

On Sunday, Netanyahu said “in order to reach the goal of eliminating the capabilities of Hamas, [he] made decisions that were not always acceptable to the military echelon” during the weekly cabinet meeting.

The war cabinet included Netanyahu, Gantz, Gallant, Dermer, Gadi Eizenkot, and Shas party leader Aryeh Deri. It is possible, i24News reported, that Netanyahu will continue to consult Gallant, Dermer, and Deri privately.

While such an arrangement would not have legal weight, it would allow the prime minister to continue the exclusion of Ben-Gvir and Smotrich from sensitive security discussions.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies