update deskIsrael at War

Six months after joining War Cabinet, Gantz calls for early elections

Israel should go to the polls in September, the National Unity leader and War Cabinet member said.

War Cabinet member Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 3, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
War Cabinet member Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 3, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Israel should go to the polls in September, National Unity leader and War Cabinet Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz said at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, marking the first time that the left-wing politician has called for early elections since joining the wartime government six months ago.

“Setting such a date will allow us to continue the military effort while signaling to the citizens of Israel that we will soon renew their trust in us,” he said in the speech, citing the need to “maintain unity.”

Gantz claimed that he discussed the matter with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and plans to “continue dialogue on the subject.”

Gantz and party colleague Gadi Eizenkot, both former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff, joined the Netanyahu-led government from the opposition and became members of the War Cabinet following Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre of some 1,200 people in the northwestern Negev.

In a statement cited by Israel’s Ynet news outlet, Netanyahu’s Likud Party accused the National Unity leader of engaging in petty politics.

“Holding elections now will inevitably lead to paralysis and division, impair the fighting in Rafah, and be a fatal blow to the chances of [reaching] a hostage deal. The government will continue until all war goals are achieved,” the statement read.

In an address to the nation on Sunday, Netanyahu had already rejected the suggestion that elections be held during the war, saying it would paralyze hostage negotiations and prevent the defeat of Hamas.

“The first who would welcome this is Hamas, and that says everything,” he said. “I’m committed to bringing everyone back, all of our men and women, soldiers, civilians—I will not leave anyone behind.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz also stated that it is too early to discuss new elections. Israel has paid a terrible price in the war, Katz told Ynet on Monday, and only through unity can it maintain the “achievements that our soldiers and our commanders brought us in battle.”

Gantz issued his call following large anti-government protests in Jerusalem on Tuesday in which protesters called to “burn down the country” and tried to storm Netanyahu’s official residence.

Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Ronen Bar issued a rare warning Wednesday morning, describing the chaos as a “beyond acceptable” protest. “There is a clear line between legitimate and illegal protest. This worrying trend could lead to dangerous places,” said Bar.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told JNS on Tuesday night that his goal was to use mass protests as a pressure lever to bring about early elections to replace the Netanyahu government.

“My message is elections now,” said Barak, one of the main speakers at the anti-government rally outside the Knesset.

“These demonstrations are to protest what is happening with the hostages, the draft law which the government is trying to pass [regarding haredi conscription] and the Knesset which instead of working when we have people [held captive] in Gaza is [going to recess],” he added.

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