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Is Israel’s war cabinet about to break down?

Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz pictured in October 2023. Credit: Getty

May 19, 2024 - 2:01pm

The discourse in the West over the war in Gaza has devolved into a tiresome contest between unflinching support for Israel and equally uncompromising revulsion. But in Israel itself, Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet appears on the verge of breaking down as a consequence of the embattled strongman’s muddled strategy.

As tens of thousands of Israelis, led by families of the hostages, protest for Netanyahu’s removal from power, retired general and member of Israel’s war cabinet triumvirate Benny Gantz announced in a speech yesterday evening that Netanyahu’s leadership “is taking Israel into a wall” and demanded a clear strategy for the war’s conclusion. Observing that “political and personal considerations are intruding into the holy of holies of security” and that “a small minority has taken over command”, Gantz gave Netanyahu a deadline of 8 June to formulate a coherent strategy for the Gaza War.

Gantz’s ultimatum builds on the renewed criticism from Defence Minister Yoav Gallant a few days earlier, highlighting the absence of any meaningful strategic vision for Gaza. As Gallant observed, Netanyahu’s refusal to countenance extending the rule of Fatah, the governing Palestinian party in the West Bank, to postwar Gaza “leads to a dangerous course, which promotes the idea of Israeli military and civilian governance in Gaza”. In Gallant’s own ultimatum, he demanded for Netanyahu “to make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza strip, that Israel will not establish military governance in the Gaza strip, and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza strip will be raised immediately”.

Two-thirds of Israel’s three-man war cabinet are now publicly against the third member, Netanyahu himself. But neither Gantz nor Gallant’s concerns derive from any special humanitarian impulses towards Gaza’s Palestinian population: as a Defence Ministry source leaked to the press, Israeli military occupation of Gaza would require the permanent stationing of five IDF divisions, weakening its capacity to respond to a conflict with Hezbollah in the north. This would also mean shouldering the costs of rebuilding Gaza’s ruins and governing a hostile population in a context of deepening international isolation.

Yet Gantz’s own proffered solution hardly seems more realistic: his plan for a “joint US-European-Arab-Palestinian administration in Gaza” requires both Western troops on the ground — an unappealing prospect for any Western leader — and a rapprochement with Arab states which have made clear that recognition of Palestine’s independence is a prerequisite for any involvement.

What’s more, his insistence that Israel return its northern border population, now living as refugees deeper inside the country, to their homes requires one of two things. It either means conceding to an increasingly assertive Hezbollah that the Gaza War has ended, with Hamas still in power, or a new confrontation with a vastly more powerful military force, all while the Gaza War remains unfinished.

Joe Biden’s indulgence of Netanyahu, driven by pressure from Western supporters who seem to believe they are helping Israel, has allowed the unpopular leader to hold onto power while drastically worsening his country’s strategic and diplomatic position. The growing dissent within the highest ranks of the Israeli government and IDF is a belated recognition that things cannot continue as they are. But, in preserving his throne, Netanyahu may have already checkmated his country.


Aris Roussinos is an UnHerd columnist and a former war reporter.

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 month ago

Aris Roussinos wants it every which way in this article. In reality Netanyahu’s departure would not improve Israel’s diplomatic isolation one whit: the West’s odium for him would quickly transfer to his successor – almost as quickly in fact as Hamas would return to power in Gaza if the unpopular and hopelessly corrupt Fatah party was installed as the nominal government there by Israel. All the fun of ranting against Israel would be removed for the Western and Arab worlds if they had to take responsibility for Gaza themselves, so there is zero possibility of that. Much easier to blame Netanyahu for everything. And throughout this tragedy the hostages’ families have precisely played the part Hamas intended for them.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

And throughout this tragedy the hostages’ families have precisely played the part Hamas intended for them – Not all of them, only minority, but MSM has specific microscope

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago

Joe Biden’s indulgence of Netanyahu, driven by pressure from Western supporters who seem to believe they are helping Israel, has allowed the unpopular leader to hold onto power while drastically worsening his country’s strategic and diplomatic position.
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Sorry, Aris, we are living in different worlds

George K
George K
1 month ago

There’s no clear strategy for Israel as a whole. The entire Zionist project has been built on an idea there we’re just holding for our dear life as long as possible and using all available means to keep doing it. There’s never been a clear strategy even for ethnic cleansing of 48 and 67. It’s all improvising as we go. US will drop its support? We’ll go to Russia or better China. Now Israel is engaged in the most bizarre type of ethnic cleansing when the expelled population has nowhere to go. So Israel is hopeful that eventually everyone will get tired of this and press Egypt to let them in. “Temporarily” of course, wink, wink..

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

George, when you talk about ethnic cleansing, you sound like an old libertine who became righteous in his later years for purely technical reasons

George K
George K
1 month ago
Reply to  El Uro

Well, I lived in Israel and got properly brainwashed and lied to, so it’s less about righteousness but rather sense of betrayal that bothers me

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

If you are not immune to brainwashing, why are you sure you are not brainwashed now? As for me you are.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

This seems obvious what you are saying. The efforts to deny the apartheid state of Israel and the ongoing ethnic cleansing has become to this American from the South to feel a lot like the way the far left over here has tried to control the language. It is gaslighting to call Israel a liberal democracy, for example. It is irrational to deny that Israel is an apartheid state with the Gaza and the West Bank part of Greater Israel. It’s a religious mission for them just like for the trans activists. Same as a transwoman is a woman or pregnant person instead of woman. But for those outside the religion it is a propaganda conspiracy that normalizes lying for political positioning.
I have just recently discovered John Mearsheimer like I suspect many many others have also. The center and south of America is so sick of being gaslight by an elite minority that controls the media. I spent time in Israel, a couple decades ago, but I and most Americans are of course ignorant of the complexities over there. Still, the obviousness of the apartheid nature of that state is causing us to reject those who deny it. I mean we thought Jim Crow was bad and that was something similar to apartheid, but the Gaza situation is far worse.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Carpenter

I invite you to use googlemaps and just for a second browse what Gaza looked like prior to October 7th. If that is Apartheid, every single black in South Africa would have said sign me up. And if Israel is involved in ethnic cleansing then they are clearly very bad at it as the Palestinian population has exploded in the years since Israel was re-constituted. So strange to me that people want to blame Israel for the failed states of Gaza and the West Bank rather than the corrupt leadership that has funneled billions of aid dollars to their own bank accounts rather than using it for the betterment of their country. And just maybe while you are at it, talk to some Arabs who actually live in Israel about whether they feel like second class citizens.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago

Sure, we got that here too. Lots of descriptions of how nice Black people had it in the South, during Jim Crow and even before the Civil War. Gaza and West Bank arent states because they cant issue passports or maintain their own security. You are doing propaganda on me, which has become easy to recognize since gaslighting and strawmanning have been so abused in these past few years by progressive orgs like NYT and WAPo and all the identity political institutions and their fake and/or cowardly pundits and scientists. Now the progressives have turned on Israel, but it’s too late to use those propaganda techniques on us anymore. We just dont care about being anti-propaganda talking points anymore, because we’ve already been called racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist for not going along with stupid identity politics. Now there is a ferocious surge of anti-semitism in America. Whatever. I am sure Gaza and West Bank were wonderful places to live before October 7, just like you are implying, because Google maps.

Jonathan Patrick
Jonathan Patrick
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Carpenter

Not suggesting that they were nice places to live before Oct 7 (Hamas made sure that wasn’t the case) but that the fact that they aren’t is not primarily the fault of any blockade imposed by Israel but due to the incompetence and corruption of Hamas and Fatah. And that equating the restrictions that Israel has placed on Gaza to apartheid in South Africa is a spurious comparison. Would any government allow a state beside them to arm themselves when that state has expressly vowed to eliminate your entire race?

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago

This argument no longer works. Palestinian leadership has been totally emasculated by Israel domination for a long time. Everyone in the world can see that. In such a situation, radicalization is inevitable. Until there is a path to statehood, the leadership of Palestinians is in a perpetual submissive posture to the Israeli police state. That causes anger and resentment and makes it impossible for moderates to stay in control. I dont think Netanyahu and all the Zionists want a resolution anyway. They want to get rid of Palestinians and have settlements. That is how it looks now. They are just making the place unlivable for Palestinians. The whole question of whether it is apartheid or not doesnt really work anymore either because it so obviously is a version of apartheid that the pretense against it seems like autistic legalistic parsing and more gaslighting.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Carpenter

I’m not exactly sure given your comments why you take exactly the progressives and Islamists line on this issue, along a few far right wing people. Good company there.

Where would any of us rather live might be an honest question? If we would simply parachuted in without knowing what identity we would take? The position of Israeli Arabs is much better than most people living in Gaza or indeed the West Bank

And selfishly, but not ignobly, it is obvious
as a gay man whose side I should be broadly on, the ludicrous “Queers for Palestine” notwithstanding. There are many other reasons.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Thanks for calling me right winger. That’s what all the progressives do to mod dems in US.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark Carpenter

Your analysis is hardly exactly complex or subtle itself. Israel is not an “apartheid” state, which rather requires intentionality and ideology behind it. This language is deliberately emotive and provocative. John Meersheimer, whom you cite, uses the most extreme language over this issue, that he doesn’t begin to issue in other contexts, such as the Russia Ukraine war. “Prison camps”, genocide”. Etc. Any credibility that that man has has been lost as far as I’m concerned.

Arab Muslims have the vote in Israel. All the land that is now demanded for “the two state solution” was in fact in Arab Muslim hands for 20 years. Did that bring Israel peace? No it didn’t.

I’m not sure this is a problem that cannot be solved because one side or another on the Arab Muslim side simply do not accept Israel’s right to exist. Israel – that includes people across the political spectrum – clearly is going to try and exist and therefore put its own security interests first. Does the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza – to then be assaulted by an endless barrage of suicide and rocket attacks exactly give you confidence that such a withdrawal from Palestine would bring Israel security?

Until a better solution somehow arises security will take precedence over the possible desire of a hostile population of Palestinians to their own state (which we already know would be very likely will be a corrupt badly governed one). Any other state would do the same.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

So you are saying that Muslims in Gaza and West Bank have the vote? Is that true? No. Obvious disingenuous spin to ignore the Palestinians stuck in the occupied territories when you call Israel a democracy instead of the theocracy it so clearly is.
You can say it’s not apartheid because actually Israel did not intend for it to be so. But it is. And the comments by current Israeli leadership totally undercuts what you are saying about intentions a d ethnic cleansing. That is reality. And it is so dang obvious to everyone that your whole spiel comes off as more gaslighting.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  George K

Israelis are not that stupid; they know that the Egyptian border is closed, so this accusation of ethnic cleansing or even genocide is absurd hyperbole by extremely motivated anti Israel commentators. That there is no overall peace treaty in the Middle East involving Israel is overwhelmingly the responsibility of the numerous actors on the Arab Muslim “side”, one or more of whom have at all times denied Israel’s right to exist, within any boundaries whatever.

As usual the ethnic cleansing of Jews, which was the equal scale to that of 1948 of the Palestinians, is completely ignored. Then the entire West Bank and Gaza – the supposed basis for this two state solution – were in Arab Muslim hands for 20.years. Indeed the Palestinian population were given Jordanian citizenship between 1948 and 1967, from home in no essential way did they differ. The Jews of East Jerusalem were expelled; the holy places were also in Arab Muslim hands. Did this produce peace for Israel? No, it did not.

Mark Carpenter
Mark Carpenter
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Absurd hyperbole that Gaza is undergoing ethnic cleansing? That is absurd hyperbole in itself. These talking points might seem heroic to repeat but they don’t make any sense to outside observers. Like what does it mean to say that the Israeli occupied territories in which stateless Palestinians are kept is not apartheid because the Egyptian Border is closed? Egypt doesn’t own either Gaza or West Bank. Those places are ruled by Israel.

El Uro
El Uro
1 month ago

he demanded for Netanyahu “to make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza strip, that Israel will not establish military governance in the Gaza strip, and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza strip will be raised immediately”.
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Stereotype thinking is what depresses me the most. The West, posing as a holy innocence fighting for all that is good, diligently feeds the Palestinians, raising more and more squads of fanatical killers, confident in their own moral sanctity and the right to kill Jews.
Our dear Aris is confident that only the immediate creation of a Palestinian state will lead to a solution to the conflict, although it is clear to any reasonable person that the result will be a much bloodier war or another large-scale massacre of Jews.
The result of Affirmative action was the fall of the African-American population into the abyss of violence, poverty, and moral decay.
Give the Germans self-government in 1945 and you would have gotten World War 4 in 1965, because the only thing that depressed them was defeat in the war, they did not feel guilty about it.
.
Road to hell is paved with good intentions, but with the tenacity of impenetrable idiots, liberals choose only this road

David George
David George
1 month ago
Reply to  El Uro

“Aris is confident that only the immediate creation of a Palestinian state will lead to a solution to the conflict”
How can anyone, now, possibly believe anything so absurd. The Islamists just want dead Jews and the wet wokelet/ Gays for Gaza types are clearly incapable of rational thinking but I thought better of Aris.
“If there was a Palestinian state, it would be run by Hamas, and that would make it a Taliban like state. …and it would be a client state of Iran. Is that what the progressive movement of the western left wants to create?”
Salman Rushdie

David George
David George
1 month ago

“a rapprochement with Arab states which have made clear that recognition of Palestine’s independence is a prerequisite”
 The salient but unasked question is: what possible Israeli “rapprochement” can there be with a regime (and a people?) that have openly declared your destruction as their priority; that have proven, by their actions, that they fully intend to pursue that insanity to the end? Does anyone really believe that the Palestinian Arabs are going to miraculously transform into good and trusted neighbours?

Marc Epstein
Marc Epstein
1 month ago

I’d suggested that this article should have benn submitted to the Sunday NY Times magazine, but another loopy variation on this theme was published there today.

j watson
j watson
1 month ago

Is not the only viable solution, and probably temporary at that, an Arab peace-keeping protectorate force deployed into Gaza?
Sisi and Salman would welcome Hamas be destroyed first – it allies with their Muslim Brotherhood enemies – but even then it would be a v difficult political decision for them to make. They would have to extract some benefits and Israel would thus need to prepare for some compromises. Erdogan will stir the mix though as he is more in the Muslim Brotherhood camp.
The added ingredient to a complex and violent cocktail is the battle that’ll now ensue to replace Raisi in Iran. Proving one’s credential to the IRGC and Supreme Leader unlikely to involve much moderation. Nonetheless whilst they cannot make it too obvious Sisi and Salman know Israel set against their primary enemy and just perhaps might help with a strategic resolution to Gaza.