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Israeli War Cabinet member Gantz says he’ll resign without new war plan

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Benny Gantz, a popular centrist member of Israel’s three-member war cabinet, threatened Saturday to resign from the government if it does not adopt a new plan in three weeks for the war in Gazaa move that would make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more dependent on his far-right allies.

The announcement deepens the division within Israeli leaders, more than seven months after the start of a war in which Israel has yet to achieve its stated goals of dismantling Hamas and returning the many hostages taken during the attack. of the October 7 activist group.

Gantz presented a six-point plan that includes the return of the hostages, the end of Hamas rule, the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and the establishment of an international administration of civil affairs. He also supports efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia and expand military service to all Israelis.

He set the deadline for June 8.

“If you choose the path of the fanatics and lead the entire nation into the abyss, we will be forced to leave the government,” he said.

Gantz, Netanyahu’s longtime political rival, joined his coalition and the War Cabinet in the early days of the war.

The departure of the former military chief of staff and defense minister would leave Netanyahu even more indebted to his far-right allies who have taken a hard line in negotiations over a ceasefire and the release of hostages, and who believe that Israel should occupy Gaza and rebuild the Jewish community. colonies there.

Gantz spoke days after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the third member of the war cabinet, said he would not remain in his post if Israel chose to reoccupy Gaza. Gallant too called the government to develop plans for the Palestinian administration of the enclave.

In what will be seen by many as a veiled jab at Netanyahu, Gantz said “personal and political considerations have begun to penetrate the holy of holies of Israel’s security.” Netanyahu’s critics accuse the prime minister of seeking to prolong the war to avoid new elections, allegations he denies.

Polls suggest Netanyahu would be replaced in the election, with Gantz the most likely candidate to be the next prime minister. This would expose Netanyahu to prosecution for long-standing corruption.

“The people of Israel are watching you,” Gantz said during his prime-time speech to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is under increasing pressure on several fronts. His government’s hardliners want the military offensive against Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost town, to continue in a bid to crush Hamas. Their main ally, the United States and others, have warned of an offensive against a city where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents had fled – hundreds of thousands have now fled – and they have threat to reduce its support for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan will travel to Saudi Arabia and Israel this weekend to discuss the war and is scheduled to meet with Netanyahu on Sunday. who declared that Israel would be “alone” if necessary.

Many Israelis, distressed by the hostages and accusing Netanyahu of putting political interests above all else, want a deal to end the fighting and release them. There was further frustration on Friday when the army said its troops in Gaza found the bodies of three hostages killed by Hamas during the October 7 attack. The discovery of the body of a fourth hostage was announced on Saturday.

The latest negotiations for a ceasefire, mediated by Qatar, the United States and Egypt, have brought little results. A vision beyond war is also uncertain.

The war began after the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage. Israel says that around a hundred hostages are still captive in Gaza, as well as the bodies of around thirty others.

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to local health authorities, while hundreds more have been killed in the occupied West Bank.

Gantz echoed Netanyahu’s call for the return of many hostages, an end to Hamas rule and the demilitarization of the territory. But he also said an international administration should be set up there, apparently ruling out a long-term Israeli occupation.

Netanyahu said Israel would maintain unrestricted security control over Gaza and partner with local Palestinians who are not affiliated with Hamas or the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Palestinian-occupied West Bank. Israel. But Netanyahu also said it was impossible to plan for such postwar authority before Hamas’s defeat.

In March, Gantz met with U.S. officials in Washington to discuss the war, earning him a rebuke from Netanyahu. He was widely expected to leave the government once heavy fighting in Gaza subsided, marking the period of national unity established after the end of the October 7 attack.

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Krauss and Jeffery reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writer Sam Mednick in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

News Source : apnews.com
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