Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Disbands War Cabinet

Political Tensions Rise as Netanyahu Reorganizes Government Amid Ongoing Conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the country's War Cabinet on Monday, a week after political rival Benny Gantz left the wartime unity government. According to a spokesman, the decision was made because there was "no more need for an extra branch of government."

This shakeup follows over nine months of conflict that began when Hamas invaded Israeli territory on October 7th, killing more than 1,200 people and taking over 240 hostages. While over 100 hostages have been released or recovered, approximately 116 remain in Hamas's custody, including some presumed dead.

Gantz, a former IDF general and defense minister, joined Netanyahu’s coalition after the attack to show national unity. However, tensions over handling the war in Gaza, including disputes over hostage negotiations and the influence of hardline elements in Netanyahu’s government, led to Gantz and his ally, Gadi Eisenkot, leaving the cabinet on June 9th.

Despite losing the National Unity Party, Netanyahu’s coalition still holds a four-seat majority in the Knesset. However, this loss limits Netanyahu's flexibility to manage competing interests within his six-party coalition. Gantz, viewed by many as Netanyahu’s likely successor, has criticized the government's war strategy and even met with U.S. officials to discuss humanitarian efforts and potential conflict resolution, actions not authorized by Netanyahu.

Israel faces immense pressure both domestically and internationally. The country had been divided over Netanyahu’s judicial reforms before the war, leading to mass protests. These protests paused when the war started but may resume following the cabinet dissolution. On the other side, hardline members of Netanyahu’s coalition, like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, argue for more aggressive military action and have criticized Israel’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza.

Ben-Gvir, advocating for an escalation of the war effort in northern Israel, claimed Netanyahu had "run out of excuses" for not taking harsher measures against Hezbollah, which has been launching missiles into Israel. Both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, excluded from the War Cabinet, will now likely have more influence in Netanyahu’s streamlined government.

Internationally, Israel’s actions have sparked varied responses. President Biden has attempted to balance support for Israel with calls for restraint, even threatening to withhold military aid and pressuring for a ceasefire. Meanwhile, countries like Spain, Ireland, and Norway have officially recognized a Palestinian state, and the International Criminal Court has issued arrest warrants for Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, despite lacking jurisdiction in Israel or the U.S.

The Israeli military announced they control about 60% of Rafah in Gaza, with Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari stating they are "weeks away" from dismantling Hamas's military framework there.

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