Netanyahu disbands his inner war cabinet after Gantz exit

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the influential War Cabinet tasked with steering the war in Gaza, Israeli officials said Monday, a move that comes days after a key member of the body bolted the government over frustrations surrounding the Israeli leader’s handling of the war.

The move was widely expected following the departure of Benny Gantz, a centrist former military chief, earlier this month.

Gantz’s absence from the government makes Netanyahu more dependent on his ultranationalist allies to govern and the dissolution of the War Cabinet underlines that shift as the eight-month-long war in Gaza drags on.

For the latest updates on the Israel-Palestine conflict, visit our dedicated page.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the change with the media, said that going forward Netanyahu would hold smaller forums with some of his government members for sensitive issues surrounding the war.

That includes his security Cabinet, where far-right governing partners who oppose cease-fire deals and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza, are members.

The War Cabinet was formed in the early days of the war, when Gantz, then an opposition party leader and Netanyahu rival, joined the coalition in a show of unity following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

He had demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war, in a bid to sideline far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

It was made up of three members — Gantz, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant — and together they made important decisions throughout the course of the war.

The move to scrap the War Cabinet comes as Israel faces more pivotal decisions.

Israel and Hamas are weighing the latest proposal for a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages taken by Hamas during its attack.

Israeli troops are still bogged down in the Gaza Strip, fighting in the southern city of Rafah and against pockets of Hamas resurgence elsewhere. And violence continues unabated between Israel and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group — with a Biden administration envoy in the region in a bid to avert a wider war on a second front.

Netanyahu has played a balancing act throughout the war between pressures from Israel’s top ally, the US, and the growing global opposition to the war and from his government partners, chief among them Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Both have threatened to topple the government should Israel move ahead on a cease-fire deal. The latest proposal being considered is part of the Biden administration’s most concentrated push to help wind down the war.

For now, progress on a deal appears to remain elusive.

Critics say Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making has been influenced by the ultranationalists in his government and by his desire to remain in power. Netanyahu denies the accusations and says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

Gantz’s departure, while not posing a direct threat to Netanyahu’s rule, rocked Israeli politics at a sensitive time. The popular former military chief was seen as a statesman who boosted Israel’s credibility with its international partners at a time when Israel finds itself at its most isolated.

Gantz is now an opposition party leader in parliament.

Netanyahu’s government is Israel’s most religious and nationalist ever. In Israel’s fractious parliamentary system, Netanyahu relies on a group of small parties to help keep his government afloat and without the support of Gantz’s party, Netanyahu is expected to be more beholden to the far-right allies.

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