Netanyahu officially disbands war cabinet after Gantz’s departure from government

PM tells ministers small forum created to manage war will not reconvene, with decisions instead to be made in ad hoc ‘consultations’; far-right’s Ben Gvir had been lobbying to join

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his security cabinet Sunday night that the war cabinet, a small forum created on October 11 to manage the campaigns against Hamas and Hezbollah, has been officially disbanded, the Prime Minister’s Office told The Times of Israel on Monday.

The establishment of a narrow war cabinet was a core demand of National Unity party chair Benny Gantz when he joined the coalition a few days after the war started in October. It comprised just three voting ministers: Netanyahu, Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Gantz bolted the coalition last week, taking with him National Unity MK Gadi Eisenkot, one of the three war cabinet observers. (The other two were Likud’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and Shas leader Aryeh Deri.)

Now that the emergency unity government no longer exists, the war cabinet that emerged as part of that arrangement is no longer relevant, a PMO official explained.

The dissolution had been anticipated, as far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has been lobbying to be added to the forum, something Netanyahu has avoided.

Netanyahu and Gallant will hold small ad hoc consultations with other relevant officials to make key decisions on the war, an official in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Times of Israel, and seek final approval from the wider security cabinet. Ben Gvir will also be kept out of these consultations, according to the Ynet news site.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir seen during Jerusalem Day celebrations outside the Jerusalem Great Synagogue, June 5, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Last week, Gantz said that Israel should agree to withdraw the military from the Gaza Strip and cease its war against Hamas for as long as is necessary to secure the release of hostages held there.

The war against Hamas, in its ninth month, shows no signs of letting up.

Meeting with commanders serving in Rafah on Sunday, IDF Southern Command chief Maj. Gen. Yaron Finkelman said that fighting in the southernmost city in Gaza would continue until Hamas was defeated there.

Troops of the Commando Brigade operate in southern Gaza’s Rafah, in a handout photo published June 15, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Despite the ongoing battles, Gaza saw its first day of relative calm in months on Sunday, after the IDF said it would “pause” fighting daily around a southern route to facilitate the flow of aid.

Meanwhile, the fighting against Hezbollah in the north could escalate even further, according to the IDF, which warned Sunday that the terror group’s “increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation.”

An Israeli army officer shows damage inside a house in the city of Kiryat Shmona, Israel, which was hit by a missile fired from Lebanon few weeks ago, on June 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

The war in Gaza broke out on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel in which terrorists murdered some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 251 hostages. In response, Israel launched a military offensive with the declared objectives of dismantling Hamas and bringing the hostages home.

The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry says more than 37,000 people in the Strip have been killed or are presumed dead in the fighting so far. The toll, which cannot be verified and does not differentiate between terrorists and civilians, includes some 15,000 terror operatives Israel says it has killed in battle. Israel also says it killed some 1,000 terrorists inside Israel on October 7.

Three hundred and eleven troops have been killed during the ground offensive against Hamas and amid operations along the Gaza border. The toll includes a police officer killed in a hostage rescue mission. A civilian Defense Ministry contractor has also been killed in the Strip.

Emanuel Fabian contributed to this report.

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