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June 24, 2024

Netanyahu Government Rifts Burst Open as Ministers Clash Over Gaza Plans

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Jan 6, 2024

Israel’s coalition government descended into open internal warfare this week as right-wing ministers furiously attacked the military chief over the probe into an October flare-up with Gaza, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abruptly end a high-level meeting on plans for the territory.

Cabinet Meeting Ends in Chaos After Row Over Probe Panel

A cabinet meeting to discuss Israeli policy on Gaza broke up in disarray on Thursday after a confrontation between key right-wing ministers and the military chief over a probe into the army’s actions during a two-day battle with Palestinian militants last year.

The closed-door security cabinet session, called to discuss Israel’s policy on Gaza following recent cross-border violence, collapsed into shouting and recriminations, highlighting deep rifts in Israel’s fragile government.

As Economy Minister Nir Barkat and others railed against military chief Aviv Kohavi, Defense Minister Benny Gantz stormed out and Prime Minister Yair Lapid threatened to bolt the coalition if such discord continues.

Netanyahu then abruptly adjourned the meeting due to the arguing. “You are harming national security by irresponsibly using the IDF for political gain,” Gantz said afterward to the ministers.

Right-Wing Ministers Attack Probe Panel’s Composition

The cabinet meeting was convened to discuss policies toward Gaza post-war. However, discussion quickly shifted to criticism from right-wing ministers over the makeup of a panel that will be probing the IDF’s handling of Palestinian violence on October 7th.

Ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud party and allied religious-nationalist factions angrily denounced the probe panel appointed by Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi. They claim it is not sufficiently independent and casts public doubt on the military’s actions.

“It is inappropriate for the chief of staff to investigate himself,” said hardline National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

The flashpoint was an Oct. 7 incident in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. Troops battling armed militants suffered a soldier’s death and came under fire so heavy commanders feared a kidnapped soldier. The ensuing hourslong battle left 10 Palestinians dead.

Critics accused the military of using excessive force. The IDF says its operation prevented a mass-casualty attack against Israelis.

To investigate, Kochavi appointed a panel headed by a general who was discharged from service four months ago. Right-wing ministers argued more outsiders should have been included on the panel.

Opposition Calls for Government to be Replaced

Addressing reporters after the rancorous meeting, opposition leader Yair Lapid warned that Netanyahu must choose between political unity or divisiveness.

“A government that spends its time dealing with itself and not the citizens of Israel should be replaced,” Lapid said. He accused ministers of harming national security by “irresponsibly using the IDF for political gain.”

Other opposition figures also condemned the fierce attacks on the well-regarded military chief by Netanyahu’s partisan loyalists. Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, a Netanyahu critic, described the conductor as “poisonous and dangerous.”

The centrist Lapid served in a caretaker capacity as prime minister for over a year before Netanyahu managed to cobble together Israel’s current government – a patchwork alliance of right-wing religious and far-right nationalist factions that won a parliamentary majority in November 2022 elections.

Deepening Divisions Threaten Coalition’s Stability

The alliance now appears to be fraying even before hitting its 100-day mark, raising questions about the government’s durability going forward.

Ministers from Netanyahu’s religious-nationalist allies have been chafing under his leadership, accusing him of being too constrained by moderate partners such as Gantz.

Critics say such divisions threaten Israel’s long-term national security at a time when it is confronting threats from arch-enemy Iran and Iranian proxy militias along its borders.

Some political analysts now see new elections later this year as increasingly likely, though still a longshot. Opinion polls show Netanyahu remains personally popular among Israelis. His Likud party is predicted to emerge even stronger in a new ballot – but with similarly difficult options in assembling majority coalition alliances.

Minister Party/Faction Role in Dispute
Benjamin Netanyahu Likud Prime Minister – abruptly ended cabinet meeting
Benny Gantz National Unity Defense Minister – clashed with right-wing ministers, warned Netanyahu must choose unity or politics
Itamar Ben-Gvir Jewish Power National security minister – denounced probe panel as lacking independence
Bezalel Smotrich Religious Zionism Finance Minister – absent from meeting
Aviv Kohavi Non-political IDF Chief of Staff – appointed disputed probe panel, came under fire from ministers

The chaotic meeting and its bitter recriminations in its aftermath have thrown a harsh spotlight on the adept political tight-rope walking act Netanyahu has had to perform since returning to power late last year.

He has sought to balance demands from his rightist and religious allies for tougher action toward the Palestinians with the need for stability from moderates like Gantz. But this week’s explosions have exposed how difficult that task may prove going forward.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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