After Netanyahu allowed ministers to bash IDF chief, Gantz says PM must choose between politics and unity

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz gives a statement on January 4, 2024. (Courtesy)
War cabinet minister Benny Gantz gives a statement on January 4, 2024. (Courtesy)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz says Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is responsible for last night’s security cabinet meeting bashing of the IDF chief of staff by right-wing ministers.

The security cabinet meeting was intended to discuss planning for the next phases of Israel’s campaign against Hamas and the administration of Gaza following the war, but ended in a loud and angry dustup between ministers and military brass after right-wing ministers cried foul over IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s plan for the army to probe its own mistakes.

Asserting that Netanyahu is culpable for the ugly scene, and implying that the prime minister should have intervened to stop the dustup, Gantz says in a video statement that it is now on the premier to correct the mistake “and to choose between unity and security or politics.”

“The cabinet was supposed to discuss strategic processes that will affect the continuation of the campaign and our security in the future. That didn’t happen, and the prime minister is responsible for that,” said Gantz. “It is his responsibility to fix this, and to choose — between unity and security or politics. If what is important now is security and unity, then we need to hold the essential meeting on the continuation of the fighting, and soon.”

Gantz conceded that ministers are supposed to ask questions and challenge the information provided to them by security chiefs at cabinet meetings, but “what happened yesterday was a politically motivated attack in the middle of a war.”

“I have participated in many cabinet meetings. Such conduct has never occurred and must not occur,” he asserts.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF chief Herzi Halevi, October 23, 2023. (Kobi Gideon / GPO)

Gantz goes on to defend Halevi’s decision to appoint a panel to probe the military’s failures ahead of October 7 to better prepare the IDF for fighting against Hezbollah.

In the process, the National Unity chairman — who agreed to join the government on an interim basis days after the war’s outbreak — appears to take a swipe at Netanyahu who has refused to admit any culpability in what unfolded on October 7.

“It is good that the chief of staff, who knew how to take responsibility after the October 7 disaster, is taking responsibility and establishing a team that will produce operational lessons for the continuation of the fighting. This is his duty,” Gantz says.

“There is no doubt that after the war, a state commission of inquiry will be established to deal with everything that happened up to October 7, at all levels. But its main [focus] should be [the government’s role] and not on military operational matters. This is what the Israeli public demands, and above all — this is what it needs,” Gantz adds.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir leads a faction meeting of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on January 1, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Hardline lawmakers fumed over Halevi’s reported decision to have former defense minister Shaul Mofaz sit on the panel probing the IDF’s pre-October 7 failures due to his involvement in the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza.

But some of the criticism appeared motivated by fears that an IDF probe into its responsibility for October 7 would also look into the government’s role or at the very least would lead to pressure for lawmakers to conduct the same type of investigation.

Netanyahu has insisted that such a probe can only take place after the war is over, as critics claim he is buying time in order to remain in office.

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