Netanyahu dissolves war Cabinet after 2 key members quit

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is shown during a meeting with President Joe Biden on Oct. 18 in Tel Aviv. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has dissolved his war Cabinet, an Israeli official said Monday, after the departures of two key members prompted demands from far-right politicians for representation in the influential group.

The two members, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, quit Netanyahu’s small war Cabinet last week amid disagreements over the direction of the war in the Gaza Strip. The men, both former military chiefs, had been seen as voices of moderation in the body, which was formed in October after the Hamas-led assault on Israel and made many decisions about the conflict.

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

Since their departures, discussions about the war have been driven by Netanyahu in conjunction with his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, and close advisers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Dissolving the war Cabinet formalizes that process. It may also defuse calls from Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners who might have hoped to fill the places of Gantz and Eisenkot.

According to Eisenkot, the influence of one of those far-right leaders, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the minister of national security, had long loomed over the war Cabinet’s discussions. After Gantz resigned, Ben-Gvir immediately demanded to join the group, writing on the social platform X that it was “about time to take brave decisions, achieve true deterrence, and bring true safety to the residents of the south, north, and all of Israel.”

Israeli news outlets reported Monday that Netanyahu’s move to disband the war Cabinet was a direct response to that demand.

For now, major decisions about the war in Gaza — such as whether to agree to a cease-fire with Hamas —will still be put to a separate and broader security Cabinet. That group includes Ben-Gvir and another far-right member, Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister. Both have argued strongly that Israel’s 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 military chiefs of staff from the centrist opposition to Netanyahu’s government, lent an aura of consensus and legitimacy internationally as Israel grew increasingly isolated over its handling of the war.

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