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Israel’s War Cabinet Collapses—But It Doesn’t Matter

The fundamentals of the war and Israeli politics haven’t changed.

Netanyahu with Gantz
Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO via Getty Images

On Monday, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his war cabinet in the wake of the resignations of his chief political rival, retired general Benny Gantz, and the former IDF chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, from the six member group. The war cabinet, which also included hardline defense minister Yoav Gallant, was stood up in the wake of the surprise Hamas attack of October 7, 2023. 

According to the AP, Gantz was disgusted with the lack of progress on bringing the hostages home and accused Netanyahu of drawing the war out in order to shield himself from yet another corruption trail. For his part, Eisenkot complained about the influence of the far-right national security minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who he recently referred to as the “alternate prime minister.”  


“Even though he is not part of the war cabinet,” charged Eisenkot, “he’s there in spirit. We wanted to invade Rafah in February, and Netanyahu dragged out the decision until May.”

The reaction from the administration was muted, with the State Department’s chief dissembler, Matthew Miller, issuing a quick ‘no comment’ on the matter. The reaction among the Israeli public was likewise muted, with the writer Jean Shaoul tartly noting that, “Not a single protester took to the streets on Sunday night to support Gantz and Eisenkot, or to demand Netanyahu’s ouster and fresh elections.”

Presumably Gantz walked away in a bid to preserve what is left of his dignity—yet there seems to be no indication that the de facto American members of Bibi’s cabinet, such as Antony Blinken and the Israeli-American operative Amos Hochstein, have any intention of abandoning the Israeli jefe in his hour of need.

The conventional wisdom seems to hold that since Ganz has a reputation as a moderate, his departure will serve only to strengthen the hands of the sanguinary hardliners such as Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich and the lunatic national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. As Adam Shatz noted in a brilliant new essay on the Israeli war on Gaza, Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are both unabashed advocates of transfer, i.e., the expulsion of the Arab population from Palestine. 

“What we are witnessing in Gaza,” writes Shatz, “is something more than the most murderous chapter in the history of Israel-Palestine: it is the culmination of the 1948 Nakba and the transformation of Israel, a state that once provided a sanctuary for survivors of the death camps, into a nation guilty of genocide.”


That said, perhaps Gantz’s reputation for moderation is a bit de trop; after all, this is the same person who has previously boasted of returning Gaza to the “stone age.” Perhaps the most pertinent question when discussing “moderates” in Israeli politics is: moderate compared to what?

It may be worth recalling that Bibi has been in similarly difficult political situations before and has always found a way to safe political ground. And so, whatever the shape of the Israeli war cabinet, the fact that over 70 percent of the Israeli public supports the war on Gaza means there ultimately will be no fundamental change.

What is now likely to happen is a widening of the war to the West Bank and Lebanon. Indeed, early this week, Volker Türk, UN high commissioner for human rights, told a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council that “the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating.” Türk noted that since October 7, 528 Palestinians, including 133 children, have been murdered in the West Bank. He also noted that “Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue.”  

Meanwhile, Biden has once again dispatched Hochstein to the region in an effort to stave off a full-on conflict between the IDF and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The aforementioned Smotrich is demanding Netanyahu open a third front in the north (the first two being Gaza and the increasingly besieged West Bank). At a ultranationalist Flag Day march in occupied Jerusalem, Smotrich bellowed

Prime Minister, give the order, go to war with Hezbollah, destroy [them,]…. Take strength from the multitudes gathered here and give the order. Go to war with Hezbollah, subdue, destroy, move the security zone from the Galilee into southern Lebanon.

What should deeply worry Americans of good conscience is that it is simply unarguable that Israel can only afford to do what it is doing thanks to U.S. military, intelligence, economic and diplomatic support. As such, Joe Biden is every bit as culpable as Netanyahu for the ongoing atrocities being waged against Palestinian civilians. 

The question remains whether Biden will pay any price at the polls in November—and to that, one can only hope.