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Netanyahu disbands his war Cabinet

WorldNetanyahu disbands his war Cabinet

TEL AVIV — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the six-member war Cabinet, an Israeli official said Monday, in a widely expected move after one of his key rivals, the centrist former general Benny Gantz, quit the emergency government. 

Netanyahu informed ministers that he will hold sensitive consultations in a smaller forum dubbed, “the kitchen cabinet,” the official said.    

Netanyahu had faced demands from ultranationalist ministers in his coalition, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, to be included in the war Cabinet, a move that would have intensified strains with international partners, including the U.S.

The forum was formed after Gantz joined Netanyahu in a national unity government at the start of the war after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7. It also included Gantz’s partner Gadi Eisenkot and Aryeh Deri, head of the religious party Shas, as observers.

Gantz and Eisenkot left the government last week over what they said was Netanyahu’s failure to form a strategy for the war, now in its eighth month.

“I think a lot of this is domestic politics and jockeying for potential upcoming elections, but I also feel that Netanyahu is feeling a bit stronger than he did a little while ago,” said Paul Salem, the vice president for international engagement at the Washington-based Middle East Institute think tank.

Netanyahu, who was widely blamed for the security failures that allowed Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks to take place, was “making political hay” from his spat with President Joe Biden over elements of Israel’s conduct during the war “and making out like he’s standing up for what the Israelis want and refusing to succumb to pressure,” Salem said.

That has “helped him politically,” he added.

With recent polling indicating Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party making gains on Gantz’s National Unity Party, Salem said Gantz, a former army general and defense minister in the last government, had faced pressure from his own side to act.  

More than 37,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to local health officials, since Israel launched its offensive in the enclave following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks, in which 1,200 people were killed and around 250 others were taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. 

On Monday Netanyahu met with Amos Hochstein, the White House official tasked with trying to ease tensions on the Israel-Lebanon border. 

Along with France, the U.S. is working on a negotiated settlement to the hostilities along Lebanon’s southern border.

Neither Netanyahu nor Hochstein commented after the meeting.

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