columnIsrael News

What will be the impact of Gantz’s departure from the government?

He has used his presence in the war cabinet not to give a boost to Israel’s war effort but to serve as a drag on it. The government will be more stable without him.

Minister-without-Portfolio and War Cabinet member Benny Gantz at the Jerusalem Day official ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, on June 5, 2024. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.
Minister-without-Portfolio and War Cabinet member Benny Gantz at the Jerusalem Day official ceremony at Ammunition Hill in Jerusalem, on June 5, 2024. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

Barring any unforeseen events, War Cabinet member and Minister-without-Portfolio Benny Gantz is expected to take his eight-member faction out of the Netanyahu government on Saturday night. With his departure, the national emergency government and the war cabinet formed last October after he joined forces with Netanyahu will be dissolved.

What precipitated Gantz’s departure? Are new elections upon us? How will his decision affect the trajectory of the war?

Two forces are responsible for Gantz’s move: the Biden administration and the far-left, anti-government political campaigners popularly known as the Kaplan force. Gantz joined the government in response to U.S. pressure and a call from the far left to undermine the government from within. He is leaving due to pressure from both.

As Politico reported on Thursday, Biden’s main focus these days is to end the war as quickly as possible. To achieve this goal, he is applying pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to capitulate to Hamas’s demands for a permanent ceasefire.

“The president and his aides are working to make sure Netanyahu is feeling the squeeze from all sides,” the magazine reported.

The report explained that Biden and his team are working not only with international actors but with “Israeli citizens and Netanyahu’s political allies and foes alike.”

The main Israeli citizens in question are the deep-pocketed far-left political campaigners that have been carrying out protests, riots and other direct-action campaigns since 2019 to oust Netanyahu and the political right from power. Since Netanyahu returned to the premiership in December 2022, U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and other senior officials have regularly met with leaders of the Kaplan force in Israel and in Washington.

Although Gantz’s departure is significant, it isn’t a surprise. When he announced his agreement to serve in a national emergency government days after Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion and slaughter, most Israelis were relieved. At a moment of national peril, Israelis believed it was imperative to abandon the domestic rancor that had characterized life in Israel during the Kaplan force’s 10-month insurrection that preceded Hamas’s invasion.

Three types of unity governments

Over its history, Israel has seen three types of unity governments. In the weeks before the Six-Day War in June 1967—as Israel readied for the anticipated pan-Arab invasion—then-Prime Minister Levi Eshkol invited then-opposition leader Menachem Begin to join the cabinet. The purpose of the government was to show the world and the Israeli public that at that critical moment, the country stood as one.

In the 1980s, Labor and Likud formed a series of national unity governments because neither major party was able to form a government on its own. The first Netanyahu-Gantz government in 2020 was formed for the same reason.

In the 2000s, both Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu formed governments with leftist parties to diminish U.S. pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians or abstain from taking action against Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. The idea was that the leftists in the coalition would make it impossible for the administrations to castigate or demonize the government as “far right” in order to justify sanctions or other hostile policies.

Netanyahu didn’t need Gantz to form a government. His coalition has a healthy majority of 64 seats. Although a show of unity is what the public yearned for, it was clear from the outset that Gantz’s participation in the government wouldn’t yield a national consensus as Eshkol’s 1967 government did.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid refused to join the government because he said that he wouldn’t sit in a government with the Religious Zionism Party or the Jewish Strength Party led by Finance Minister Betzalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, respectively. Gantz demanded the establishment of the war cabinet and insisted that Smotrich and Ben-Gvir be barred from participating in its deliberations.

In short, the left agreed to share power with Netanyahu but refused to accept the legitimacy of his coalition or voters.

Misunderstood the political situation in Israel

Just as was the case in the 2000s, Netanyahu brought Gantz into his government after Oct. 7 because he hoped that Gantz’s presence in the war cabinet would diminish U.S. pressure for Israel to end the war without defeating Hamas and without successfully diminishing the strategic threat to the north from Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.

In the event, Gantz did not deliver the goods. Netanyahu’s government was demonized by the United States, the United Nations, Europe, and the Western and Israeli media as the “most extreme government in Israeli history,” before Gantz joined the government, and it was demonized as the “most extreme government in Israeli history,” by the same forces after Gantz joined the government.

Even worse, pressure on “the most extreme government in Israeli history” has risen to unprecedented heights with Gantz in the government. As Politico reported, in recent months, Biden and his team have been mobilizing all relevant international actors to trap Netanyahu with a “vice grip” that will leave him no option other than to bow to their goal of ending the war without Israeli victory.

To this end, the administration has directly and indirectly greenlighted an international campaign of delegitimization and demonization of Israel from the United Nations to the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court which is unprecedented. The goal of these actions is self-evident: to make Netanyahu and his government end their quest for victory over Hamas and stand down in the face of insufferable Hezbollah assaults on northern Israel.

If that weren’t enough, in keeping with the joint expectations of the Biden administration and the Kaplan force, Gantz has used his presence in the war cabinet not to give a boost to Israel’s war effort but to serve as a drag on that effort. Ceaseless leaks of war cabinet proceedings to the media by Gantz and his partner Gadi Eizenkot have undermined the war effort by demoralizing the public and casting doubt on Israel’s capacity to win. Moreover, Gantz and Eizenkot have effectively served as U.S. proxies in the war cabinet, repeatedly blocking or delaying major planned offensives in keeping with U.S. wishes.

Since Gantz’s presence in the government brought neither national unity nor political stability—or even any international support—his absence is not expected to cause major shocks to Israel’s political stability or international standing. It is also unlikely to achieve the Biden administration’s goal of overthrowing the government or forcing Netanyahu to bow to Biden’s pressure campaign to end the war.

So why is the administration acting as it does? Apparently, it has misunderstood the political situation in Israel. Since the Netanyahu government entered office, the administration has refused to meet with the “extreme members” of his coalition Ben-Gvir and Smotrich. They have refused to speak with Netanyahu voters, opting instead to sanction them and demonize them. While boycotting the majority of Israelis and demonizing their elected representatives, the administration has operated in an echo chamber that hears only the Israeli left, which comprises somewhere between 20% to 30% of Israelis.

The left’s dismal standing is borne out by consistent polling of Israelis since Oct. 7. Those polls have found that 70% of Israelis support Netanyahu’s goal of total victory. A poll this week by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs reflected the results of successive polls on support for the so-called “two-state solution,” which requires the establishment of a Palestinian state. Some 69% of Israelis oppose Palestinian statehood—79% of Israeli Jews oppose it.

Blinken is reportedly going to arrive in Israel early next week and is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu. If experience is a guide, he can be expected to meet with Gantz, Lapid and other left-wing politicians. He will probably also meet again with leaders of the Kaplan force, which is set to stage mass protests in Jerusalem and besiege the Knesset to pressure lawmakers to bring down the government beginning in the middle of the week.

When he arrives, Blinken will be beset by a reality he hadn’t anticipated. Far from destabilizing Israel or increasing pressure on Netanyahu, the secretary of state will find a stable coalition no longer constrained by Gantz’s veto on military action. The political leverage that Blinken and Biden held against Netanyahu will be gone.

Given the political realities on the ground and the actual role Gantz played in the government since joining in October, it is clear that the implications of his departure are twofold. First, the government will be more stable without him than it was with him. And second, without Gantz’s veto, Netanyahu and his ministers will be free to pursue a course to victory in the war.

You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war. JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you. The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support? Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Topics
Comments
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates