May 18, 2024 - World

Israeli minister Gantz presents ultimatum to Bibi on post-Gaza war strategy

Benny Gantz with others

Benny Gantz votes during Israel's last elections in November 2022. Photo: Jalaa Marey/AFP via Getty Images

Minister Benny Gantz, a notable member of Israel's war cabinet, gave an ultimatum to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday and said his party will leave the government if the cabinet doesn't approve a strategy for the war in Gaza by June 8.

Why it matters: Gantz's speech further destabilized the emergency government that was formed after the Hamas October 7 attack and widened the divides within the war cabinet.

  • The speech came a few days after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant presented his public indictment against Netanyahu and his unwillingness to draft a post-war strategy.

What they're saying: Gantz said in his speech that an extremist minority took over the decision-making "and is taking Israel into a wall."

  • He was referring to Netanyahu's political allies and ultranationalist ministers Itamar Ben Gvir and Betzalel Smotruch.
  • Gantz accused Netanyahu of being driven by personal and political considerations and not by the country's national security interests.
  • He said the cabinet needs to draft a strategy that will prioritize releasing hostages held by Hamas and only afterwards focus on toppling Hamas rule in Gaza.

Zoom in: He said the strategy must include forming a U.S.-European-Arab-Palestinian directorate in charge of civilian administration in Gaza that won't include Hamas and won't be under the authority of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

  • Gantz said another element in the strategy must be the normalization deal with Saudi Arabia that the Biden administration has been working on.

The other side: "Instead of presenting an ultimatum to Hamas, Gantz presented an ultimatum to the Prime Minister," Netanyahu's office said in a statement.

  • Netanyahu's office said Gantz's ultimatum means a defeat for Israel, the abandonment of the majority of the hostages, the survival of Hamas in Gaza and the formation of a Palestinian state.
  • Netanyahu's statement made clear for the first time that he rejects the Saudi demand to get an irreversible and time-bound Israeli commitment for a path toward a Palestinian state in return for a normalization deal.

State of play: The political crisis exploded a day before White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to arrive in Israel from Saudi Arabia and hold separate meetings with Netanyahu and Gantz.

  • Sullivan's talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday focused on the "Mega Deal" the Biden administration wants to reach with Saudi Arabia and includes a historic peace deal between the kingdom and Israel.

Go deeper: Israeli defense chief unloads on Bibi over lack of post-war plan

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