ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 141

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Post-war Gaza goal: 100% security control, 0% civilian control

Israelis ‘deserve more from us’: Gantz slams coalition lawmakers’ conduct amid war

As war cabinet minister appears to criticize Netanyahu, member of his party Gadi Eisenkot decries talk ‘about numbers of terrorists that did not appear in any document’

Minister Benny Gantz attends a press conference at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on October 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Minister Benny Gantz attends a press conference at the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, on October 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz appeared to bash Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference on Tuesday evening, accusing coalition lawmakers of sowing division among the public in recent days with inflammatory statements and attacks on the IDF amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

Gantz, who brought his National Unity party into Netanyahu’s government days after the October 7 terror onslaught, condemned those in the government “who are conducting divisive discourse in the Knesset, who turn cabinet meetings into attacks on the military, who compare the TV studios to our enemies, to those who murdered our sons and daughters.”

Although he did not single out any lawmakers by name, Gantz’s comments appeared to be partly aimed at Netanyahu himself.

During a press conference on January 18, Netanyahu said the idea that Israel cannot win the war was being circulated “in the TV studios,” and told one reporter: “I’ll continue to fight Hamas, and you’ll continue to fight me… That’s the division of work.” The prime minister has continued to castigate journalists in subsequent press conferences.

Telling his fellow lawmakers that “being a public leader in a time of crisis is a great responsibility,” Gantz called Tuesday for everyone “from all sides of the political map, just before you speak — think about the soldiers and the hostages, think about where we ended up and why.”

“The citizens of Israel deserve more from us than this,” he added.

Minister Benny Gantz with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a press conference at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, December 16, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Gantz then turned to the hostages still held in Gaza and the proposed deal to return them to Israel.

“We are working right now to set an outline for the return of the hostages into motion,” he said. “This is the result of military pressure, of our strength as a society that seeks life, and of policy actions we take, including the involvement of the dear and brave families of the hostages.”

“The return of the hostages is an integral part of the victory, and does not replace our duty to remove the threat of Hamas,” he continued.”If we reach a [deal], it will be a step on the way to victory.”

Addressing the future of the Gaza Strip and its 2.3 million Palestinian residents, Gantz said that “all options are on the table… all except Hamas” acting as a civil administrator once the war is over.

“Our goal is 100% security control — zero percent civilian control,” he added.

IDF troops are seen operating in the Gaza Strip in this handout photo cleared for publication on February 6, 2024. (IDF)

Responding to Gantz’s comments, Netanyahu’s Likud party issued a statement saying the premier “is fighting for absolute victory. Anyone who thinks that bringing Palestinian Authority officials into the Gaza Strip will defeat Hamas is wrong. There is no substitute for absolute victory.”

Also on Tuesday evening, Gantz’s fellow National Unity party member and war cabinet observer Gadi Eisenkot commented on a possible hostage deal, as well as what he said were “irresponsible” statements made by fellow government ministers.

“This isn’t just one soldier — these are hundreds of civilians who lived their lives, trusted the IDF, and one day fought for [their lives] and were abandoned,” Eisenkot said, adding that Israel, therefore, has an “obligation to return them.”

“I see all statements against the deal as very serious,” he continued. “Politicians spoke out in an irresponsible way, about numbers of terrorists that did not appear in any document or proposal.”

Eisenkot’s comments also appeared to be directed at Netanyahu, who has repeatedly insisted that Israel is not prepared to release “thousands of terrorists” in exchange for the 136 hostages still held by Hamas, not all of them alive.

The remarks by Gantz and Eisenkot came amid growing friction between National Unity and Likud. In the first few weeks after National Unity joined the government, Gantz and Netanyahu displayed a united front, appearing together in press conferences along with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and seeming to agree on the core matters relating to the war.

Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant (center) and Minister Benny Gantz (right) embrace, with Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at left, at a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on November 11, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

However, as political disagreements began to return in the Knesset, so too have tensions between Gantz and Netanyahu, with the former soaring in public opinion polls while Likud and its leader have continued to fall.

As the strains between Gantz and Netanyahu have reappeared, with the two criticizing each other through carefully worded statements on various issues that have split public opinion, there has been growing speculation on how much longer the delicate partnership will last.

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