Top Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz calls for September elections

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Insights from the Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg, the Jerusalem Post, and Axios

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Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz called on political leaders to agree to an early election in September, becoming the first member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency government to challenge his rule.

Gantz stopped short of saying his National Unity parliamentary alliance — currently leading the polls in Israel — would leave Netanyahu’s wartime government, but urged the administration to ramp efforts to bring Israeli hostages in Gaza home and avoid straining relations with the United States.

The public must know that the government “will not ignore the disaster of October 7 and what preceded it,” Gantz said in a televised speech. “That’s why we have to reach an agreed election date during the month of September.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) welcomed Gantz’s call for an election.

“When a leading member of Israel’s war cabinet calls for early elections and over 70% of the Israeli population agrees according to a major poll, you know it’s the right thing to do,” Schumer said.


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Polls show Israelis want a new prime minister

Sources:  Reuters, The Atlantic’s Yair Rosenberg, Arieh Kovler

Polls consistently show that Israelis overwhelmingly disapprove of Netanyahu’s government since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks: one January survey found that only 15% of the public wants him to stay as prime minister following the war. With centrist Gantz calling for an election, the pressure to hold a vote is “only going to get more intense,” The Atlantic staff writer Yair Rosenberg posted on X. Netanyahu is likely to try to resist voters’ demands as long as possible, which will likely fuel ongoing protests. September is likely to be the earliest date for an election since Israeli law stipulates a three-month period after a vote is called for campaigning, and in the summer many Israelis will be traveling and absentee voting is not allowed, noted political analyst Arieh Kovler.

White House would prefer Gantz to lead Israel’s military campaign

Sources:  Al-Monitor, The Jerusalem Post

Frustrated with the bombardment of Gaza and delays getting humanitarian aid to starving Gazans in the strip, the White House is more keen to work with the more moderate Gantz on Israel’s wartime campaign “instead of dialoguing with Netanyahu,” according to Al-Monitor. In March Gantz flew to the White House for a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris without Netanyahu’s consent, reportedly leaving the prime minister “furious,” the outlet said. But Gantz’s visit to Washington was merely “an opportunity to score political points” with the Israeli public, argued Jerusalem Post columnist Herb Keinon, saying that the power struggle between Gantz and Netanyahu is fueling “petty politics” that is distracting from Israel’s goals of returning the Hamas-held hostages and eliminating the militant group.

Gantz likely sees Saudi Arabia normalization deal as final chance for Netanyahu

Source:  Axios

Gantz also used his address to stress that normalizing Israel’s relations with Saudi Arabia is “within reach.” The White House has been aggressively campaigning for Riyadh to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, but Biden has already said that the deal is contingent on Israel accepting a post-war plan that would eventually establish an independent Palestinian state. If Netanyahu rejects the deal, “he could be exposed as a rejectionist and lose whatever U.S. support he still has left,” wrote Axios’ Barak Ravid.