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Netanyahu Rival Gantz Leaves Israeli War Cabinet

State of the Union: The move could signal the start of the war cabinet’s crackup.
Netanyahu with Gantz
Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

On June 9, Benny Gantz, the leader of Israel’s National Unity Party, left Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition along with his ally Gadi Eisenkot. The move has been anticipated since May 18, when Gantz gave Netanyahu an ultimatum concerning the war in Gaza. Gantz and Eisenkot felt that Netanyahu did not have a plan to rescue Israeli hostages held by Hamas, end the war, or create a successful plan for the post-war governance of Gaza.

While Gantz had planned to leave the coalition on June 8, his departure from the coalition was delayed by a day due to the rescue of four hostages on Saturday. 


Gantz had earlier put forward his own post-war plans for Gaza, which included having both the U.S. and EU administer Gaza alongside the Palestinians and Israelis. 

The effect of Gantz’s move is complex.

Gantz on Sunday made clear he backed the proposed hostage deal with Hamas. "I demand Netanyahu to stand clearly behind it and do everything in order to make it happen," he said, implying his rival was standing in the way.

But Gantz has in certain respects appeared more aggressive than Netanyahu; it has been reported that he supported immediate retaliation after Iran’s April 13 missile strikes on Israel. Netanyahu reportedly opposed such retaliation. 

But Gantz has built his political career on a fairly conventional foreign policy in the Israeli context. Like Netanyahu, Gantz has backed West Bank settlement blocs. But Gantz condemned Netanyahu for lobbying for the end of the Iran Deal. “Netanyahu’s push to withdraw from the nuclear deal hurt the fight against the Iranian nuclear program. He did it without proper preparation with the security establishment," Gantz said in 2022.

In a point of distinction, Gantz has backed plans to allow civil marriage in Israel, which would also serve as state recognition of gay marriage. Netanyahu is considered personally secular, but has long countenanced alliances with social conservatives as a matter of political expediency.

Before he entered politics, Gantz served as the Israeli attaché to the United States 2005–09, during the height of the Iraq War, and was the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff 2011–15, ironically with the unanimous approval of Netanyahu’s cabinet. He was succeeded as chief of staff by Eisenkot.