Netanyahu dissolves war cabinet after 2 key members resign

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has disbanded his war cabinet, an Israeli official said Monday, after the departure of two top members prompted far-right politicians to demand representation in the influential group.

The two members, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, left Netanyahu's small war cabinet last week due to disagreements over the direction of the war in Gaza. The men, both former military leaders, had been seen as voices of moderation in the body formed in October after the Hamas-led assault on Israel and which had made many decisions on the conflict.

The Israeli official suggested that Netanyahu's decision to disband the body – which was communicated to ministers at a wider cabinet meeting on Sunday – was largely symbolic given that Gantz and Eisenkot had already resigned.

After their departure, discussions on the war were led by Netanyahu together with his Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, and his closest advisers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly of the question. .

The dissolution of the war cabinet formalizes this process. It could also defuse demands from Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners who might have hoped to fill Gantz and Eisenkot's seats.

According to Eisenkot, the influence of one of these far-right leaders, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security, had long loomed over the war cabinet's discussions. After Gantz's resignation, Ben-Gvir immediately called to join the group, writing in . all Israel.”

Israeli news outlets reported Monday that Netanyahu's move to dissolve the war cabinet was a direct response to that demand.

For now, major decisions on the war in Gaza – such as whether to agree a ceasefire with Hamas – will still be entrusted to a separate, larger security cabinet. That group includes Ben-Gvir and another far-right member, Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister. Both have strongly argued that the Israeli military offensive in Gaza must continue until Hamas is destroyed.

The smaller war cabinet was charged with overseeing the fighting in Gaza. Having members like Gantz and Eisenkot, former chiefs of staff of the centrist opposition to Netanyahu's government, lent an aura of consensus and legitimacy internationally as Israel became increasingly isolated in its handling of the war.

“Netanyahu listened from very serious perspectives,” said Mitchell Barak, an Israeli pollster and analyst who worked as Netanyahu's aide in the 1990s, citing the military careers of Gantz and Eisenkot. “Now he has lost him. What he has now is more of an echo chamber.”

Israeli news outlets have reported that Netanyahu is now expected to rely on advisers such as Ron Dermer, a seasoned confidant of the prime minister and former ambassador to the United States who served as a non-voting member of the war cabinet.

But it is important to remember that Netanyahu was always in the driving seat anyway, Barak added.

Dissolving the war cabinet “centralizes his power, consolidates it and makes any mutiny much more difficult,” he said.

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