newsIsrael at War

Gantz to exit coalition if no ‘day after’ plan for Gaza formulated by June 8

The former defense minister and chief of staff has given Netanyahu until June 8 to formulate a plan to achieve six key war goals.

Israeli Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.
Israeli Minister Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive at a press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Dec. 16, 2023. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90.

Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz on Saturday night threatened to leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition if the premier does not declare a plan for the day after Hamas in Gaza.

“I look you in the eyes tonight and tell you: The choice is in your hands. After talking to you again and again, the moment of truth has come. The time for a decision has come,” said Gantz.

“I have known you for many years as an Israeli leader and patriot, you know very well what needs to be done…But if you choose to follow the path of fanatics and lead the entire nation into the abyss—we will be forced to resign from the government,” he continued.

Gantz set a deadline of June 8—just under a month—for Netanyahu to approve a plan of action for accomplishing what he said were six key strategic goals of the war.

He listed these as: Bringing home the hostages; destroying Hamas, demilitarizing the Gaza Strip and establishing Israeli security control there; creating an “international civilian governance mechanism for Gaza” including Palestinians but not P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas or Hamas; returning the residents to the north and rehabilitating the western Negev; advancing normalization with Saudi Arabia and establishing a new framework for Israelis’ military service.

In a statement released by his office, Netanyahu said in response to Gantz’s ultimatum that, “At a time when our heroic fighters are fighting to destroy the Hamas battalions in Rafah, Gantz chooses to issue an ultimatum to the prime minister instead of an ultimatum to Hamas.”

Gantz’s demands boil down to the war ending with Israel’s defeat, Hamas in power, the abandonment of most of the hostages and the establishment of a Palestinian state, he added.

Israel has not lost 282 IDF soldiers “for the sake of replacing Hamastan with Fatahstan,” the statement continued, referring to Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction.

The statement then posed three questions to Gantz:

1. “Is he ready to complete the operation in Rafah to destroy the Hamas battalions, and if so, how is it possible that he is threatening to dismantle the emergency government in the middle of the operation?

2. “Is he opposed to civilian control of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, even without Abbas?”

3. “Is he ready to accept a Palestinian state in Gaza and Judea and Samaria as part of the normalization process with Saudi Arabia?”

To which Gantz’s office replied that if Netanyahu had listened to Gantz, the Rafah option would have begun months ago and been done by now. With regard to the other questions, the statement said that Gantz is opposed to the P.A. ruling Gaza, but open to other Palestinians doing so, and that the minister is against the establishment of a Palestinian state.

It should be noted that the premier still has 64 seats without Gantz, meaning that the latter’s exit from the government wouldn’t bring it down.

The spat generated significant reactions from members of both the government and opposition.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir tweeted that, “From the first moment of joining the government, [Gantz has been] mainly involved in attempts to dismantle it.”

He went on to state that, “The man who hosted Abu Mazen [Abbas] in his home, brought in workers from Gaza [prior to Oct. 7], led the gas-surrender agreement with Lebanon, removed essential security barriers in the United States and endangered [IDF] Golani [Brigade] soldiers ‘out of concern for the Palestinians,’ is the last one who can offer security alternatives.”

Ben-Gvir called for the current Cabinet to be dismantled and replaced with “a determined, powerful and decisive one.”

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid, who has been calling for the coalition’s disbandment since its establishment and is actively pushing for elections, told a crowd in Tel Aviv: “I call on Benny [Gantz] and [fellow National Unity Party member] Gadi [Eisenkot]: Enough. Enough. Get out of there. Enough with the press conferences, enough with the empty ultimatums, get out! If you weren’t sitting in the government, we would already be after the era of Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir. The fact that Netanyahu is still in power is already registered in your name.”

Pressure to formulate a “day after” plan for Gaza has been coming from other sources in the coalition as well. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a televised address last week that, “Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet and have received no response. The end of the military campaign must come together with political action. The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors.”

“Indecision is, in essence, a decision,” he added.

Gallant also called on Netanyahu to announce he is opposed to “the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza. Israel must not establish civilian rule in Gaza.”

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