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Benny Ganz, a key member of Israel's war cabinet, has resigned

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

A key member of Israel's war cabinet has resigned. Benny Gantz, a centrist and a political rival of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, accused Netanyahu of not forming a strategy to replace Hamas in Gaza. Now he's calling for Israel to hold early elections in the fall. NPR's Daniel Estrin joins us now from Tel Aviv. Hey, Daniel.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Hey, Scott.

DETROW: Why is Gantz resigning at this point?

ESTRIN: He gave a speech, and he said that, months into the war, he has been unable to influence the direction that Israel is headed. And he said Netanyahu is preventing us from reaching real victory. He said he wanted to tell the Israeli people the truth that the campaign, meaning the war, will take years. There is no easy and quick victory. And he said that Netanyahu was putting his own political survival over the fate of Israel's hostages in Gaza. He was referring there to a deal that President Biden is backing for ending the war and getting the hostages released from Gaza. Netanyahu is not embracing that deal because his far-right political partners have threatened to collapse the government because it would mean the war would be over, and the far-right wants to see the war continue.

And so Gantz is quitting. He has put out a veiled call for the defense minister, who is a like-minded politician in the war cabinet, he's calling on him to quit as well. And Gantz says that there should be new elections by the fall.

DETROW: The fact that when the war began, Netanyahu did broaden things out from his right-wing government with his war cabinet, including Gantz, was a big deal. It did give him a lot of political cover. What is the significance at this point of Gantz resigning?

ESTRIN: Yeah. That's right. I mean, now it means that Netanyahu is dependent only on his far-right and religious partners and no longer has that moderating influence that Gantz was seen as having. His resignation will not topple Netanyahu's government or lead to new elections because Netanyahu does have that coalition majority and a solid majority. His government can continue. But Gantz does want to kick off the momentum to see if this can lead eventually to new elections and to toppling Netanyahu's government. Public opinion polls show that Gantz would beat Netanyahu in an election.

And I think that Gantz's resignation now reflects a greater frustration among a big part of the Israeli society with the way that the war is being waged, and with a big lack of faith in Netanyahu, that he even has a strategy for ending this war. So there is a big question. Will this create momentum in, for instance, Israeli society for protests, growing calls for elections and even a reckoning of the failures to prevent October 7 and the start of the war? Already today we saw a senior Israeli military officer resign over what he said was his failure to protect Israelis in the October 7 attack.

DETROW: You mentioned President Biden pushing this plan for a cease-fire. How does this resignation affect that attempt, other attempts at cease-fire, the broader attempts to end the war?

ESTRIN: I think it could make it harder for the U.S. to actually promote President Biden's deal, the one that he's promoted for a cease-fire, because Gantz was the most vocal proponent of that deal. He especially liked Biden's proposal for Israel to establish ties with Saudi Arabia as a kind of a way out of the war and a strategic future for Israel. But we see that the cease-fire deal is not taking off. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed to the region, but he's not going to have Gantz in the inner circle to push this kind of deal forward.

DETROW: NPR's Daniel Estrin in Tel Aviv. Thanks so much.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
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