Israeli PM Netanyahu disbands his inner war cabinet


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the six-member war cabinet, an Israeli official says, in a widely expected move that came after the departure from government of the centrist former general Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer who had been in the war cabinet.

The prime minister had faced demands from the nationalist-religious partners in his coalition, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, to be included in the war cabinet, a move which would have intensified strains with international partners including the United States.

The forum was formed after Gantz joined Netanyahu in a national unity government at the start of the war in October and also included Gantz’s partner Gadi Eisenkot and Aryeh Deri, head of the religious party Shas, as observers.

Palestinian woman looks from her destroyed house in Khan Younis
Israel’s military campaign has destroyed much of the Gaza Strip since a Hamas attack in October. (EPA PHOTO)

Gantz and Eisenkot both left the government last week, over what they said was Netanyahu’s failure to form a strategy for the Gaza war.

The spat is the latest in a series of clashes between members of the coalition and the military over the conduct of the war, now in its ninth month.

It comes a week after centrist former general Gantz quit the government, accusing Netanyahu of having no effective strategy in Gaza.

The divisions were laid bare last week in a parliamentary vote on a law on conscripting ultra-Orthodox Jews into the military, with Defence Minister Gallant voting against it in defiance of party orders, saying it was insufficient for the needs of the military.

Religious parties in the coalition have strongly opposed conscription for the ultra-Orthodox, drawing widespread anger from many Israelis, which has deepened as the war has gone on.

Lieutenant-General Herzi Halevi, the head of the military, said on Sunday there was a “definite need” to recruit more soldiers from the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community.

Despite growing international pressure for a ceasefire, an agreement to halt the fighting still appears distant, more than eight months since the October 7 attack by Hamas fighters on Israel triggered a ground assault on the enclave by Israeli forces.

Since the attack, which killed 1200 Israelis and foreigners in Israeli communities, Israel’s military campaign has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health ministry figures, and destroyed much of Gaza.

Although opinion polls suggest most Israelis support the government’s aim of destroying Hamas, there have been widespread protests attacking the government for not doing more to bring home about 120 hostages who are still in Gaza after being taken hostage on October 7.

Meanwhile, Palestinian health officials said seven Palestinians were killed in two air strikes on two houses in al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza Strip.

Al-Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza
Israeli military strikes have continued in al-Bureij refugee camp, central Gaza. (EPA PHOTO)

As fighting in Gaza has continued, a lower level conflict across the Israel-Lebanon border is threatening to spiral into a wider war as near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Hezbollah militia have escalated.

In a further sign that fighting in Gaza could drag on, Netanyahu’s government said on Sunday it was extending until August 15 the period it would fund hotels and guest houses for residents relocated from southern Israeli border towns.