Israeli minister threatens to quit if Netanyahu does not agree to new Gaza plan

National Unity leader and member of the Israeli war cabinet Benny Gantz speaks to the press in the Knesset, the parliament, in Jerusalem, in March. The centrist member of Netanyahu's war cabinet on Saturday threatened to resign if the prime minister does not accept his plan to replace Hamas by June 8. File Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI

May 18 (UPI) -- Benny Gantz, a key member of Israel's three-member war cabinet, said Saturday he would quit the government if it does not adopt a new plan to end the war in Gaza.

In a speech and in a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, Gantz spelled out a six-point plan for withdrawing from the Strip and threatened to resign if Netanyahu did not adopt it by June 8.

The plan includes prioritizing the return of Israeli hostages, returning Israeli citizens displaced by fighting near the Lebanon border to their homes, normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, creating a civilian government body to oversee Gaza after the war and ending the exemption of ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service.

The announcement comes after Israeli troops said they recovered the body of hostage Ron Benjamin, along with the bodies of three other hostages in the northern Gaza Strip.

They were among the 252 people captured during the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Gantz's announcement serves to deepen the divide in Netanyahu's already fractured government over his handling of the seven-months-long war against Hamas.

The prime minister has long relied on the support of far-right cabinet members who would rather encourage Palestinians to leave the war-torn strip, leaving it free for Israel to build Jewish settlements there.

Netanyahu has been torn between his far-right contingent and U.S. allies who have called for the establishment of a reformed Palestinian Authority to replace Hamas after the war.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has called for the establishment of a formal Palestinian State and set it as a precondition to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel.

Gantz's departure would not immediately topple Netanyahu's government, but as one of the few centrists in his orbit, it would leave him more beholden to his far-right contingent as Israel faces increased international pressure to end the war.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday also challenged Netanyahu, saying he would not accept a solution where Israeli military or government remains in Gaza.

A longtime rival of Netanyahu, Gantz joined his emergency coalition and war cabinet in the early days of the war.