Israel war cabinet minister says to quit unless Gaza plan approved

AFP , Saturday 18 May 2024

Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said Saturday he would resign from the body unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip.

Benny Gantz
File photo: Benny Gantz speaks at the announcement of former IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot s election bid in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Aug. 14, 2022. AP


"The war cabinet must formulate and approve by June 8 an action plan that will lead to the realisation of six strategic goals of national importance.. (or) we will be forced to resign from the government," Gantz said, referring to his party, in a televised address directed at Netanyahu.

Gantz said the six goals included toppling Hamas, ensuring Israeli security control over the Palestinian territory and returning Israeli captives.

"Along with maintaining Israeli security control, establish an American, European, Arab and Palestinian administration that will manage civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip and lay the foundation for a future alternative that is not Hamas or (Mahmoud) Abbas," he said, referring to the president of the Palestinian Authority.

He also urged the normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia "as part of an overall move that will create an alliance with the free world and the Arab world against Iran and its affiliates".

Netanyahu responded to Gantz's threat on Saturday by slamming the minister's demands as "washed-up words whose meaning is clear: the end of the war and a defeat for Israel, the abandoning of most of the hostages, leaving Hamas intact and the establishment of a Palestinian state."

The Israeli army has been waging its bloodiest war on Gaza for more than seven months killing more than 35,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, as it claims to wage war against Hamas.

In recent days, broad splits have emerged in the Israeli war cabinet after Hamas fighters regrouped in northern Gaza, where Israel previously said the group had been neutralised.

Earlier in the week, Netanyahu came under personal attack from Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for failing to rule out an Israeli government in Gaza after the war.

The premier's war planning also came under recent attack by army chief Herzi Halevi as well as top Shin Bet security agency officials, according to Israeli media reports.

Netanyahu is also under pressure from Washington to swiftly end the Israeli war, which has sparked global outrage towards the historic allies and caused immeasurable suffering for Palestinians.

Washington has previously called for a "revitalised" form of the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza after the war.

Netanyahu has rejected any role for the PA in post-war Gaza and instead clung to his elusive goal of "eliminating" Hamas, asserting that "there's no alternative to military victory".

The Israeli premier's outright rejection of post-war Palestinian leadership in Gaza has broken a rift among top politicians wide open and frustrated relations with top ally the United States.

Experts say the lack of clarity only serves to benefit Hamas, whose leader has insisted no new authority can be established in the territory without its involvement.

"Without an alternative to fill the vacuum, Hamas will continue to grow," International Crisis Group analyst Mairav Zonszein told AFP.

Emmanuel Navon, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, echoed this sentiment.

"If only Hamas is left in Gaza, of course they are going to appear here and there and the Israeli army will be forced to chase them around," said Navon.

"Either you establish an Israeli military government or an Arab-led government."

On Friday, the army announced it had recovered bodies of three captives who were killed during Hamas's October 7 offensive on Israel from Gaza.

After Israeli forces entered the far southern city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians were sheltering, talks mediated by Egypt, the United States and Qatar to release the captives have ground to a standstill.

"The hostage deal is at a total impasse -- you can no longer provide the appearance of progress," said Zonszein of the International Crisis Group.

"Plus the breakdown with the US and the fact that Egypt has refused to pass aid through Rafah -- all those things are coming to a head."

*This story was edited by Ahram Online

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