Gantz resigns from Israel's war cabinet; Ben-Gvir demands seat

National Unity leader and member of the Israeli war cabinet Benny Gantz speaks to the press in the Knesset, the parliament, in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2024. File Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI
National Unity leader and member of the Israeli war cabinet Benny Gantz speaks to the press in the Knesset, the parliament, in Jerusalem, on March 13, 2024. File Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI

June 9 (UPI) -- Benny Gantz, an Israeli politician known for his centrist political views, has resigned from Israel's war cabinet as controversial ultranationalist Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded his seat.

Gantz announced his resignation in a press conference broadcasted on social media in which he blasted the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He was a member of the war cabinet for eight months.

"We established a government of national freedom through a partnership of fate, not out of political partnership. Months after the October disaster, the situation in the country and in decision-making had changed," he said. "Netanyahu and his partners turned the unity into an emotional appeal with no grounding in reality."

Gantz called upon Israeli citizens serving in the army to "remain committed" to the country's security.

"In this war, more than 1,000 families have paid the ultimate price and thousands of soldiers have been injured on the battlefield," Gantz said.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a conference calling for the building of illegal Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 28, 2024. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI
Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at a conference calling for the building of illegal Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem on January 28, 2024. File Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI

Gantz's resignation from Israel's war cabinet is significant because his departure deepens the political divide within Netanyahu'sgovernment, which is already strained due to differing views on the Gaza conflict.

Though Netanyahu's coalition still holds a 64-member majority in the Knesset, the country's parliament, his government will likely be destabilized by Gantz's exit and face increased influence from those on the far right, like Ben-Gvir.

The centrist Gantz has pushed for a more measured approach than his peers, including a six-point plan for Gaza that emphasizes ending Hamas rule and establishing an international administration for the Palestinian territory. Still, he said Israel "will be able to vanquish any enemy."

"Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing to a real victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart," Gantz said. He said he would be part of a national unity government that includes all centrist parties.

In a letter shared to social media, Ben-Gvir said he demanded that Netanyahu let him join the war cabinet.

"The time has come to make brave decisions, achieve real deterrence and bring security to the residents of the south, the north, and Israel as a whole," Ben-Gvir said.

Avi Rosenfeld on Sunday also became the first military commander to quit since the war broke out in Gaza.

Rosenfield, a brigadier general, resigned in a letter to the chief of staff of the Israeli Defense Forces and said he "failed" in his mission to protect Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

"I intend to continue to take part in the investigations and the learning of lessons, to do everything so that what happened on October 7 does not happen in the future," Rosenfeld said.

He is the second senior officer to resign after the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate announced he was quitting in April.