Netanyahu Dissolves Israeli War Cabinet

Netanyahu Dissolves Israeli War Cabinet
(L-R) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz speak during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Oct. 28, 2023. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

TEL AVIV, Israel—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved the war Cabinet that has overseen the fighting in Gaza, a government spokesperson said Monday, days after a key member of the body quitted the government over frustration with the Israeli leader’s handling of the war.

The move was widely expected following the departure of Benny Gantz, a former military chief. Mr. Gantz’s absence from the government increases Mr. Netanyahu’s dependence on his nationalist allies, who oppose a cease-fire. That could pose an additional challenge to the already fragile negotiations to end the eight-month war in Gaza.

Government officials said Mr. Netanyahu would hold smaller forums for sensitive war issues, including with his security Cabinet, which includes right-wing governing partners who oppose cease-fire deals.

The war Cabinet was formed in the early days of the war, when Mr. Gantz, then an opposition party leader and Netanyahu rival, joined the coalition in a show of unity following the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel by Hamas terrorists. He demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war. It was made up of three members—Mr. Gantz, Mr. Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

The move to scrap the war Cabinet comes as Israel faces more pivotal decisions.

Israel and Hamas are weighing the latest proposal for a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages taken by Hamas terrorists during its attack. Israeli troops are still bogged down in the Gaza Strip, fighting in the southern city of Rafah and against pockets of Hamas resurgence elsewhere, in addition to a dramatic escalation last week on the northern border with Lebanon.

After launching hundreds of rockets and drones toward Israel in some of the most intense barrages in the conflict, Hezbollah terrorists sharply reduced the number of projectiles fired toward northern Israel on Sunday and Monday.

The lull continued even after Israeli military officials said they killed a key operative in Hezbollah’s rocket and missile department, Mohammed Ayoub, in a drone attack on Monday morning. The Israeli military said it tracked just two missiles fired Monday from Lebanon, and they did not enter Israeli territory. In the past 48 hours, there were just six launches, down from more than 200 on Thursday.

The lull could be due to the Muslim feast of Eid al-Adha that began Sunday morning, as well as a visit from Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser to U.S. President Joe Biden. Mr. Hochstein is in Israel to discuss the volatile situation along the Lebanon-Israel border. He is scheduled to be in Beirut on Tuesday.

The United States has been trying to ease tensions along the frontier, and Mr. Hochstein made several trips to the region in recent months. Hezbollah began attacking Israel almost immediately after the Israel–Hamas war erupted, and daily exchanges of fire have been commonplace since then. In recent weeks, the exchanges have intensified, with fires breaking out on both sides of the border.

Mr. Netanyahu has played a balancing act throughout the war, weighing pressure from Israel’s top ally, the United States, and growing global opposition to the fighting, as well as from his government partners, chief among them Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Both have threatened to topple the government should Israel move ahead on a cease-fire deal. The latest proposal is part of the Biden administration’s most concentrated push to help wind down the war. For now, progress on a deal appears to be stalled.

Mr. Gantz’s departure prompted another resignation. Former army chief and fellow party member Gadi Eisenkot left the war Cabinet, where he had observer status.