Top Netanyahu rival calls for early elections in Israel

AFP , Thursday 4 Apr 2024

Israeli minister Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet and main rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called Wednesday for snap parliamentary elections in September.

gaza
File Photo - Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz. AP
 

Netanyahu faces pressure from several sides, including protests demanding boosted efforts to secure the release of captives in Gaza.

"We must set a consensual date for the month of September, or if you prefer for the first anniversary of the war," said Gantz, who is also a lawmaker, in a speech from his office in Israel's parliament, the Knesset.

Netanyahu's Likud party rejected the call, but it was welcomed by the leader of the US Senate who last month urged new elections in a strident criticism of Netanyahu's handling of the war.

"When a leading member of Israel's war cabinet calls for early elections and over 70 percent of the Israeli population agrees according to a major poll, you know it's the right thing to do," Senator Chuck Schumer wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Early elections require the agreement of 61 elected officials, or the majority of deputies in the Knesset, where the Likud has the most seats without a majority.

Netanyahu's Likud said elections while Israel is "at war would inevitably lead to paralysis" and harm the military's war in Gaza.

Demonstrations by opponents of Netanyahu have brought together thousands of people in recent weeks particularly since Saturday, notably in Tel Aviv and occupied Jerusalem.

Protesters and the relatives of captives called for the resignation of the premier.

According to the latest polls, in the event of early elections, Gantz would be well ahead of Netanyahu, whose popularity has been declining since October 7.

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