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February 22, 2024

Political Turmoil in Israel as Divisions Deepen Over Gaza Plans

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Jan 6, 2024

Israel’s political leadership is in disarray as divisions burst open among top ministers over the government’s plans for Gaza following recent fighting there. A high-level meeting of the security cabinet to discuss post-war strategy for Gaza ended abruptly on January 4th amid shouting matches and walkouts.

Cabinet Meeting Erupts in Chaos

The cabinet meeting descended into chaos as right-wing ministers bitterly clashed with IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi over the composition of a probe into the army’s failings leading up to a deadly October 7th incident in Gaza.

Halevi announced the previous day that the IDF would investigate its own conduct, appointing former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz to lead an internal inquiry commission. But several hawkish ministers reacted with outrage, accusing Halevi of harming national security and calling the commission unfit to examine the IDF’s actions.

Table summarizing some key developments:

Event Details
IDF announces internal probe into failures before Oct 7 incident Headed by former chief of staff Shaul Mofaz. Aims to identify operational shortcomings.
Right-wing ministers attack probe, Halevi Accuse Halevi of harming security. Say probe panel unfit to examine IDF.
Ministers storm out of cabinet meeting Meeting to discuss post-war strategy for Gaza ends abruptly amid chaos
Gantz warns Netanyahu to choose unity over politics Says Netanyahu allowing ministers to undermine trust in IDF for political gain
Lapid calls for government’s replacement Cites loss of public trust over internal divisions

“The commission of inquiry appointed by the chief of staff is inappropriate,” railed Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, head of the far-right Religious Zionism party.

Along with other pro-settlement ministers, Smotrich protested Halevi’s pick of Mofaz, whom he branded “Mr. Expulsion” for his role in the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005.

The ministers’ bitter attacks stunned others present, including Foreign Minister Eli Cohen who pleaded for national unity. IDF spokesman Ran Kochav declared it “an irregular discussion that got out of control.”

Calls for Netanyahu to Replace Government

The chaos comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition faces growing criticism over its fractious makeup and struggles to govern.

“Israel needs to replace this government,” declared opposition leader Yair Lapid. He accused Netanyahu of losing public trust by failing to restrain his ministers.

Lapid pointed to the abrupt end of the security cabinet meeting as further evidence the government is dysfunctional and disconnected.

Centrist politician Benny Gantz also slammed the conduct of ministers, warning Netanyahu must choose between national unity and cynical politics.

“Stop irresponsibly using the IDF for political gain,” implored Gantz after ministers assailed Halevi.

Tensions with U.S. Over Commitments

The turmoil threatens Israel’s alliance with its closest partner, the United States. Differences have emerged over Israeli assurances that it would moderate actions in the West Bank and Gaza.

Washington was dismayed last October when Israeli strikes killed over 100 Palestinian civilians during clashes in Gaza. U.S. officials saw the incident as undercutting restarting peace talks.

With violence threatening to spiral, the White House extracted guarantees from Netanyahu to de-escalate tensions, including easing the blockade of Gaza.

But scenes from the cabinet meeting fueled concerns Netanyahu won’t deliver on commitments. Ministers affiliated with the settler movement vowed there would be no concessions over Gaza.

“We did not agree to any easing of the closure,” raged Smotrich.

What’s Next: Early Elections Likely

Most analysts believe the divisions within Netanyahu’s coalition cannot be bridged for long. Early elections in late 2024 seem inevitable barring major shifts in the political landscape.

But Netanyahu will likely resist moves toward elections as long as possible. His Likud party still leads in polls, but surveys show a united opposition could oust him.

For now, Netanyahu retains enough support from his religious and far-right allies to stay in control. But chaos from the cabinet meeting highlighted the unwieldy nature of his coalition.

Continued instability could prompt defections from his bloc. Several Likud members have already demanded a commission of inquiry into the October 7th incident, contrary to the prime minister’s position.

As the pressure mounts in the coming months, Netanyahu may have no choice but to call elections before being forced from office.

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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.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

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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