update deskIsrael at War

Sa’ar quits gov’t, claims Cabinet managing war ‘contrary to national interest’

After breaking up his political alliance with Benny Gantz on March 12, New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa'ar had demanded a spot on the War Cabinet.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks with New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa'ar (right) at the plenary hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid speaks with New Hope Party leader Gideon Sa'ar (right) at the plenary hall of the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, March 13, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Gideon Sa’ar on Monday announced his decision to quit the country’s wartime unity government, two weeks after breaking up his political alliance with National Unity Party leader Benny Gantz and demanding a spot on the War Cabinet.

“I entered the government even though I was not included in the War Cabinet, contrary to the agreement between me and my former partner [Gantz],” Sa’ar said at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Monday evening.

The New Hope Party chief stated he had “prioritized the establishment of the emergency government” in the wake of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, before adding, “In retrospect, maybe I was wrong about that.”

Sa’ar blamed the government for what he described as a failure to accomplish its war goals in Gaza and said the military campaign against Hamas had been managed “contrary to the national interest.

“We demanded two weeks ago to join the War Cabinet so that I could bring to the table my experience from five Cabinets over the last 25 years,” Sa’ar explained. “I cannot bear responsibility as long as I do not…have a practical possibility of influencing the direction of policy.”

Five months after the National Unity Party joined the Netanyahu-led emergency government, Sa’ar announced on March 12 that he and three other lawmakers were parting ways with Gantz. Tensions between the two had reportedly soared in recent months, as Sa’ar sought to return to the right-wing camp while Gantz stuck to his left-wing principles.

“I respect my friends, the representatives of National Unity in the War Cabinet, but unfortunately, they do not express in it the voice, positions and emphases I would bring there,” Sa’ar told reporters, in reference to Gantz and fellow party member Gadi Eisenkot.

Days after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, Gantz agreed to a unity government with Netanyahu. The agreement established the War Cabinet consisting of Netanyahu, Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Eisenkot were named observers.

Sa’ar and one of his political allies, Yifat Shasha-Biton, were sworn in as ministers but were left out of the War Cabinet.

A day after Sa’ar announced the split, the Knesset House Committee green-lit a request to split off and re-establish his New Hope Party. The new faction vowed to “clearly express the national and statesmanlike worldview” and insisted it be given a spot on the War Cabinet.

While sources in Netanyahu’s Likud Party initially indicated that the premier would respond positively to Sa’ar’s request to join the War Cabinet, adding another member to the forum turned out to be difficult from a coalition perspective, since others have made similar requests.

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