Gantz puts Netanyahu on a three-week notice

Gantz puts Netanyahu on a three-week notice

Gantz puts Netanyahu on a three-week notice
Some of the strategic goals Gantz set out in his ultimatum to Netanyahu are unrealistic. (AP)
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When he called a press conference at the end of the Jewish sabbath last week, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war Cabinet and leader of the National Unity Party, raised expectations of a dramatic announcement.
Many anticipated that he and his party had decided to part company with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, as it has become obvious that the supposedly moderating influence of Gantz on the far-right tendencies of the coalition was no longer able to serve such a purpose, if it ever did.
True to his usual, hesitant form, however, Gantz could not find in himself the courage to resign from the government on the spot. Instead, he put Netanyahu on a three-week notice as he issued an ultimatum that included six conditions for their political partnership to continue. If they are not met by June 8, the government will revert to a “pure” far-right version, without the more moderate safety net provided by his party.
There was some rationale for National Unity to join the government in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, given the need to respond to the outrage. It quickly became apparent that Netanyahu was barely functioning as a leader as he presided over a government that included far-right messianic-fanatic elements with hardly any diplomatic or military experience.
However, it could equally be argued that a decision to remain in opposition, as leader of the opposition Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid party did, might have been even more effective. From that position, support for the government could have been provided when merited but, equally, constructive criticism could have been delivered when required.
Either way, when it became apparent that Netanyahu, for his own egotistical reasons, had no interest in ending the war or securing the release of hostages, and that the killing of innocent civilians in Gaza and the utter devastation inflicted on the tiny territory had become reckless, it was surely time for National Unity to leave the government to avoid becoming complicit in its actions and tainted by its disastrous conduct.
It was actually Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, from Netanyahu’s own Likud party, who in a televised address this month confirmed what we have all known for some time: that Israel under its current prime minister has no plan for “the day after.”
He urged Netanyahu to make “tough decisions” to advance the non-Hamas governance of Gaza, whatever the personal or political cost, because what he described as the “gains” of the war were being eroded, compromising Israel’s long-term security.
In a rare demonstration of civil courage, which is a characteristic Netanyahu completely lacks, Gallant made it clear in no uncertain terms that he would not allow the establishment of Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip because “the end of the military campaign must be a political act.”
Astonishingly, he then confirmed: “Unfortunately, no such plan has been brought for debate and, worse yet, no alternative has been presented in its place.”
In other words, straight from the horse’s mouth, more than seven months into the war, the Israeli government still has no plan for the day after.

Netanyahu’s response to Gantz was utterly dismissive, which should be a clear indication to his party that its time is up and that its coalition government has passed its sell-by date.

Yossi Mekelberg

Gantz, a former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, added his voice to this sentiment several days later when he stated the imperative need to establish a vision for ending the war and for the future of Gaza as one of his conditions for remaining in the government.
Another is that the return of all remaining hostages is secured. Gantz knows full well that the chances of bringing any of them back alive are fading, which is something Netanyahu and the far-right elements in his government seem to be completely indifferent about.
However, when Gantz claimed that personal and political considerations had “begun to enter the most sacred parts of Israel’s defense,” it was hard to avoid the feeling he was “playing the innocent” on this point. Only someone who has been on a different planet for at least the year-and-a-half since the current Israeli government was formed could try to claim that only now have ulterior motives started to creep into Netanyahu’s decision making.
This government has been one big exercise in serving Netanyahu’s personal and political interests — mainly to help him to avoid justice — and in return for that he has been happy to hand the country’s steering wheel to elements intent on taking Israel on a destructive journey of deadly confrontation with the Palestinians, isolation from the international community, the demolition of its democratic system, and complete moral bankruptcy.
For these elements, Oct. 7 was a blessing; not a curse or a disaster but a sign that Israel must return to Gaza, take complete control of the territory, build Jewish settlements there, and take steps that eventually lead to annexation of the West Bank.
In the absence of any desire by Netanyahu to instantly quash such senseless and dangerous ideas, there was no justification for either Gantz or his most senior political partner, Gadi Eisenkot, to remain in the government, especially since there is no end in sight to the war, the hostages have not returned, and Gaza is becoming yet another failed conflict with no political horizon.
In the meantime, families of the hostages have faced constant, vicious, and sometimes violent attacks from supporters of the government, actively enabled by the police, resulting in ever-deeper divisions within a society more fragmented than ever before.
The situation cries out for a strong opposition that demands a State Commission of Inquiry to investigate the failures that led to Oct. 7 and everything that has followed, and for an election so that the people of the country can choose the kind of government opinion polls suggest they want.
Can anyone still delude themselves into believing that the current Israeli government, given who leads it and who calls the shots, is capable of meeting the challenges the country faces and extricating it from the mess it has got itself into? Of course not; this crass coalition is more likely to further exacerbate Israel’s predicaments than resolve them.
Some of the strategic goals Gantz set out in his ultimatum to Netanyahu are unrealistic, and not even compatible with each other, as long as the current government remains in power. The overthrow of Hamas, for example, even if achievable would require many more months, or even years, of Israeli presence in Gaza.
This is, therefore, incompatible with his other demands for the establishment of a joint US, European, Arab, and Palestinian administration that would manage Gaza’s civilian affairs, and the repatriation of residents of northern Israel who were evacuated from their homes.
Netanyahu’s response to Gantz was utterly dismissive, which should be a clear indication to his party that its time is up and that its coalition government has passed its sell-by date. The sooner he quits, the better he will serve his people.

Yossi Mekelberg is a professor of international relations and an associate fellow of the Middle East and North Africa Program at international affairs think tank Chatham House.
X: @YMekelberg

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