Israel’s political divisions have burst into public view as cabinet ministers openly clashed over the military’s plans to investigate failures linked to a deadly October attack by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Ministers Fume at Probe Panel’s Composition
A high-level meeting on post-war Gaza planning blew up on Thursday as ministers protested the composition of a panel appointed by IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi to investigate failures by the military in the lead-up to the October 7 attack by Hamas militants that killed 49 Israelis (1).
Right-wing ministers slammed Kohavi’s appointment of former IDF chief Shaul Mofaz to lead the probe. Mofaz was heavily criticized for his role in Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 (2). Transportation Minister Miri Regev called the panel unfit to make defense decisions about Gaza. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich reportedly yelled at Kohavi, saying “You should be ashamed!” (3)
Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir skipped the meeting entirely in protest of the probe. He accused Kohavi of harming soldiers through “self-flagellation.” (4)
Gantz Defends IDF Chief, Warns Netanyahu
Defense Minister Benny Gantz forcefully defended Kohavi after the meeting and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of allowing politics to harm national security.
“I suggest to the prime minister to choose between unity and politics,” Gantz said on Twitter. “The IDF is a popular army, and we must stop irresponsibly using it for political gain.” (5)
Gantz argued that investigating the army’s failures was critical: “That is how we have worked over the years, and how we became an advanced, moral and responsible army in the face of our enemies in the violent and unstable Middle East.” (6)
Netanyahu’s Likud party defended the behavior of its ministers, further highlighting the divide. “The Likud ministers acted today as the authentic representatives of the public who sent them to office,” a party statement said. (7)
Investigating Failures Necessary, Says IDF
The IDF sees investigating failures as essential to improve capabilities for future fighting. IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Ran Kochav said such probes have happened after past wars without causing political friction.
“We investigate, learn lessons and implement them,” Kochav said. “That’s what we’ve done in the past and what we will continue doing in the future.” (8)
The probe will focus on intelligence and operational failures in the lead-up to the attack in the border community of Nahal Oz. Hamas militants emerged from an infiltration tunnel and opened fire on residents before being killed by IDF troops.
Kohavi appointed the investigation panel on Wednesday. In addition to Mofaz, it includes former national security adviser Giora Eiland and ex-head of IDF Operations Branch Agai Yehezkel. The team has been ordered to submit recommendations within a month. (9)
Opposition Leader Calls for Replacing Government
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid slammed the government over the conduct at the cabinet meeting. He accused ministers of harming national security through their attacks on Kohavi.
“What happened last night at the cabinet meeting crosses every red line,” Lapid said in a video statement. “The current government needs to be replaced.” (10)
The political firestorm shows no signs of abating as the investigation gets underway. Ministers who skipped Thursday’s meeting have demanded a new discussion next week solely on the probe’s mandate and composition.
Netanyahu is stuck in an increasingly untenable position between the right-wing elements of his narrow coalition and his alternate prime minister Gantz. With Likud tying its fate to the far-right, Netanyahu appears unable to curb the conduct of his ministers without risking the collapse of his government.
But allowing such destabilizing attacks on the military and defense leadership to continue could also be politically perilous. Former IDF chiefs Gadi Eisenkot and Benny Gantz went on to form their own political parties after Netanyahu helped stoke resentment against them while they were in uniform. Netanyahu may live to regret the latest assaults on the popular and well-regarded Kohavi.
|Ministers Who Attacked Kohavi
|Angry over probe panel appointments
|Called probe “self-flagellation”
|Said panel unfit on defense issues
This story shows the potential for Israel’s political divisions over Gaza and military affairs to spiral out of control. With a narrow coalition reliant on extremist elements, Netanyahu appears unable to contain inflammatory behavior from his ministers at a sensitive time for Israeli security. This rift seems likely to deepen unless Netanyahu can find a way to reassert control – but that could quickly cost him his governing majority. The IDF investigation itself could compound these tensions as its findings may further agitate right-wing members of the cabinet. Wise leadership is needed to navigate these uncharted waters for Israel, but that may be in short supply.
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