Samuel J. Hyde
Writer and Political researcher

Gantz’s Speech: Empty Words at a Critical Time

Benny Gantz’s Saturday night press conference offered nothing groundbreaking. His speech merely rehashed the countless leaks about divisions within the war cabinet over the past months. By Gantz’s standards, it was a bold move—he declared, “unity cannot be a fig leaf for paralysis.” This is quite significant for someone who has thrived on the illusion of unity, which is the main reason his poll numbers have risen since the war began, surpassing Benjamin Netanyahu.

But let’s be clear: Gantz’s standards are dismally low, and in the bleak landscape of this government, his speech was anything but courageous. “Recently, something has gone wrong. Crucial decisions have not been made,” he stated. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant was far more candid in his Wednesday night press conference, bluntly criticizing Netanyahu for failing to make necessary decisions from the outset of the war.

Gantz chose to speak in metaphors, talking about “a small minority which has taken over the bridge of Israel’s ship and is leading it to the rocks.” He would have done better to stick to the facts: this government has been shipwrecked since the war began. His threat to resign from the cabinet along with his party within three weeks if a plan isn’t formulated to address Israel’s six strategic objectives won’t change the government’s trajectory. This far-right-dominated coalition will never accept his demands.

Still, the speech holds some significance. The key point isn’t Gantz’s ultimatum; we can’t trust him not to find an excuse to stay by June 8. The crux is that of the three war cabinet members, two have now publicly accused the third, Netanyahu, of lacking a strategy for a war that has dragged on for seven and a half months. Yet, Gantz is giving Netanyahu another three weeks, and Gallant hasn’t even threatened to resign.

Both Gantz and Gallant have now informed the Israeli public that their prime minister is dragging the country deeper into Gaza without a viable plan to end the war, hinting at political reasons under far-right pressure. Netanyahu’s war cabinet has essentially expressed no confidence in him. In any normal political situation, this would signal the end: the prime minister would have to fire his ministers, or they would resign, leading to an early election.

But this isn’t a normal cabinet. It exists because the broader coalition includes far-right ministers who control Netanyahu’s fate. Forming a small war cabinet without the far right was Netanyahu’s sole political concession since the war began. In their absence, he has become the far right’s proxy, vetoing any strategy that might impede their desire to keep Israel in Gaza indefinitely and rebuild settlements there.

Netanyahu wanted Gantz in his cabinet for cover on decisions that the far right opposed, such as the initial hostage release agreement in November and the recent opening of humanitarian supply routes in Gaza. With Gantz on board, it was easier to stave off calls for an early election. But Gallant and Gantz’s statements on Wednesday and Saturday night indicate they realize Netanyahu will not budge.

Gantz is still giving Netanyahu a last chance, hoping that combined pressure from the Biden administration might induce some change. Netanyahu’s dismissive response, less than an hour after Gantz’s press conference, showed that’s unlikely. Yet, he won’t fire Gantz, needing the cover Gantz provides and hoping he finds an excuse to stay.

Over the past year and a half, Israel has inflicted immense damage upon itself. The judicial revolution nearly ignited a civil war, a catastrophic security failure brought immense suffering and national humiliation, and a war devoid of clear political objectives has led us into a quagmire. Our deterrence against Iran has diminished, starkly illustrated by their audacious missile attack. Meanwhile, international support is eroding, tensions with the United States are surfacing, and legal warfare seeks to brand us as war criminals.

These profound challenges necessitate a fundamental reorganization of Israel’s political system. The State of Israel cannot continue to face these myriad threats with its current dysfunctional framework. The public is acutely aware of this reality: only a third express confidence in the government and its leader. Moreover, faith in victory has plummeted from an overwhelming majority at the outset to merely a third today. The imperative for change is undeniable, and it must occur with urgency.

About the Author
Samuel Hyde is a writer and a political researcher, based in Tel Aviv, Israel. Hyde works at The Jewish People Policy Institute, previously at The Foundation For Defense of Democracies, Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance and the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Centre. He is the editor of “We Should All Be Zionists” by former Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf.
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