June 20, 2024

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Netanyahu faces a battle in Israel after Gantz’s party leaves the government

Netanyahu faces a battle in Israel after Gantz’s party leaves the government

Mr. Gantz joined the government last October to promote a sense of unity in a time of crisis. He has joined forces with his political rival, Mr. Netanyahu, despite a deep mistrust between the two and a history of betrayal. The last time Mr. Gantz joined a government with Mr. Netanyahu, in 2020, it also ended badly after Mr. Netanyahu broke their power-sharing agreement.

The influence of Mr. Gantz and Mr. Eisenkot, whose son, a soldier, was killed in December during fighting in Gaza, has waned in recent months, leading many Israelis to question why they did not leave the emergency government and join the opposition earlier. . Mr. Gantz has called for early elections this fall.

Netanyahu’s remaining official partners in the war cabinet are his defense minister, Yoav Galant, a rival within the conservative Likud party whom Netanyahu tried to expel last year. And Ron Dermer, a veteran confidant of Netanyahu who has more diplomatic than political experience. It is unclear whether the war government will continue its work.

The separate, broader security cabinet includes two ultra-nationalist party leaders: Itamar Ben Gvir, Minister of National Security, and Bezalel Smotrich, Minister of Finance. They both want to resettle Gaza with the Israelis.

Both Mr. Ben Gvir and Mr. Smotrich have vowed to bring down Mr. Netanyahu’s government if he follows through on an Israeli proposal for a deal that would include a truce and hostage exchange of Palestinian prisoners, as President Biden made clear on a deal a week ago, that would effectively end the war.

Analysts say there are at least two potential challenges now looming for Mr. Netanyahu’s government.

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The first is the possibility of reaching an agreement with Hamas. Israeli and American officials say they are awaiting an official response from Hamas to the truce proposal. A positive response may force Netanyahu to stop obfuscating and choose between reaching an agreement and maintaining his government.

Another challenge is the deeply polarizing issue of blanket exemptions from military service granted to ultra-Orthodox men enrolled in seminaries.

Exemptions for ultra-Orthodox Jews have long been a contentious issue in Israeli society, but tolerance for this decades-old policy has begun to wane in a country where most 18-year-olds are conscripted for years of compulsory military service, and even more so during their military service period. Compulsory. This war. The same group of reservists find themselves repeatedly called up for extended periods of duty in Gaza as the campaign enters its ninth month, with no clear plan, experts say, for where it is headed.

On Monday night or early Tuesday, Israel’s parliament was expected to vote on a conscription bill that would essentially preserve the exemption system for ultra-Orthodox Jews. Although Mr. Netanyahu is pushing it to placate his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, some members of the conservative Likud party — including Mr. Gallant, the defense minister — object to it, especially during a war when the country needs more soldiers. .

On the issue of recruitment, Mr. Netanyahu finds himself in a dilemma, Plesner said. He added: “There is an inherent conflict between his political base and his most important alliance with the extreme Orthodox parties.”

If the bill is approved on first reading, it will go to committee before a second and third, final vote. But even if the draft resolution fails, said Mr. Plesner — himself a former lawmaker from a now-defunct centrist party — it would not necessarily herald the dissolution of parliament or the collapse of the government.

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Netanyahu’s critics accuse him of prolonging the war to avoid elections and public accountability for the government and military failures that led to the October 7 attack.

Emulating Mr. Netanyahu’s stated war goal of “absolute victory” over Hamas, which many experts say is a vague and unattainable idea, Mr. Gantz said in his resignation speech on Sunday that the “real victory” would be a joint military victory and diplomatic initiative.

He said, “True victory means changing national priorities, expanding the circle of service and those who serve, and ensuring Israel’s ability to confront the challenges it faces.”

He added: “Unfortunately, Netanyahu is preventing us from achieving a real victory.”