Imminent Collapse Looms for Israel’s Emergency Government Amid Prolonged Gaza Conflict


In recent communications, a high-ranking representative from one of Israel’s opposing political factions conveyed a revelation: “The Americans have come to the realization that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s effectiveness is compromised due to the prevailing political circumstances,” they shared with me last week.

“Moreover, driven by apprehension over the potential backlash from voters, Netanyahu has clandestinely progressed to Stage 3 of the conflict. Strikingly, he has not only kept this development concealed from his own war cabinet but has also withheld it from the general public.”

Netanyahu’s political quandary is exerting strain on the Biden administration’s tolerance, fostering a perception that considerable support is extended to him without reciprocal gains. While the American authorities are obligated to factor in Netanyahu’s political challenges, he, reciprocally, exhibits a reluctance to extend similar goodwill to the Democratic candidate navigating a challenging reelection campaign in the White House.

John Kirby, the spokesperson for the US National Security Council, articulated this week that Israel has transitioned into a phase of low-intensity conflict in the North, with a similar transformation anticipated for the South.

This stance starkly contradicts Netanyahu’s declaration the previous day, asserting an escalation of hostilities in the southern region of the Gaza Strip. Despite Netanyahu’s efforts to keep the Israeli populace partially uninformed about the conduct of this war, the Americans are exposing his stratagem.

The repercussions of escalating disquiet from Washington are causing reverberations in Jerusalem’s political terrain. Even in this phase of the conflict marked by gradual advancements and less discernible military accomplishments to an untrained observer, there exists room for contemplation regarding potential political trajectories.

Gantz’s sway in the conflict wanes Gantz was well aware of what he was stepping into. Initially labeled as naive, he, having been stung by Netanyahu’s political maneuvering once before during the Covid unity government, entered the current government with eyes wide open. There was a hope that something might change in Israel’s seasoned political landscape after October 7.

Although there were initial changes, they proved transient. Presently, many within the political sphere speculate that Gantz is formulating an exit strategy. The timing of his departure hinges on understanding the power dynamics within the government, particularly in the war cabinet.

Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, a minister without portfolio, joined the emergency government with the commitment to contribute substantially to the war effort. Securing two of the five seats in the national emergency unity government’s war cabinet, they emerged as key players in managing the conflict. However, as we mark the 100th day since their involvement, it appears that their impact on the conflict’s management is diminishing.

Illustrative instances include the prolonged period since the release of the last hostage, exceeding 50 days. Israel seems to be meandering, with intermittent flickers of hope for the 136 hostages still held in Gaza’s tunnels and undisclosed locations. Every few weeks, Hamas releases additional macabre videos, often revealing the tragic news of more hostages being murdered.

Eisenkot contends that it is imperative to pause and contemplate the next direction for the war machine. He questions whether Israel’s achieved victories thus far justify exploring a ceasefire for the release of hostages.

“We must stop deceiving ourselves,” asserts Eisenkot. “Courage is required to pursue an acceptable deal that secures the return of all hostages. Time is of the essence, and each passing day imperils their lives further. Adhering blindly to the same strategy while hostages remain captive is untenable. Now is the pivotal moment for bold decisions; otherwise, surrender becomes inevitable.”

Eisenkot, previously perceived as a relatively unremarkable politician, has gained prominence in recent weeks. His articulation aligns with public sentiment, and in a hypothetical popularity poll, he, having recently mourned his son killed in Gaza, would likely garner high approval ratings.

Returning to the discussion of the war cabinet, Eisenkot and Gantz find themselves at odds with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Netanyahu. The latter duo advocates military force as the key to overcoming Hamas and securing hostages’ release, echoing the strategy preceding the previous hostage release.

Yet, with 50 days passing without substantial progress, this issue could become a decisive point prompting Gantz and Eisenkot’s withdrawal from the government.

Despite their perception that they still influence decisions, the political risks associated with stepping down at this juncture are considerable. Such a decision could be construed as evading responsibility, potentially damaging the National Unity party’s popularity in future elections.

Netanyahu is cognizant of these considerations, actively working to consolidate his coalition. In wartime, the acceptable differs from ordinary times, and Netanyahu finds limited room for maneuvering in the cabinet.

While war cabinet meetings are scheduled to address the post-war scenario for Israel, a comprehensive discussion on this matter is yet to occur. IDF officials caution that without government intervention soon, the IDF may need to reoccupy areas previously conquered and relinquished.

Netanyahu postpones discourse on the post-war era Why is Netanyahu deferring this discussion?

He cites different reasons each time, from disputes between ministers Miri Regev and David Amselem and the IDF chief of staff to the more critical issue of defending Israel’s case at The Hague.

Netanyahu fears that ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir might advocate for resettling the Gaza Strip and relocating all Palestinians there, undermining his official policy that Israel has no intention of coercing Palestinians to leave Gaza.

Analyzing this from a political perspective, Gantz has persistently urged a discussion on the war in Gaza and its implications for Israel, the economy, and education. Each time, this request has been denied.

Netanyahu’s favored verb is ‘postpone.’ Why address today what can be postponed until tomorrow, or the next day, or some unspecified date in the future? Therefore, despite Gantz’s presence in the war cabinet, Netanyahu relies not on him and his associates to support far-reaching proposals but clings to his right-wing base. When Gantz resigns, Netanyahu will still need these individuals in his camp.

In an attempt, perhaps, to placate Gantz, two media reports surfaced almost simultaneously last Wednesday. One suggested that a senior Likud official proposed to Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman to join the government in exchange for prestigious portfolios, even proposing they assume Ben-Gvir’s role.

Both declined, each for their reasons: Lapid due to unwillingness to be in a government led by Netanyahu, and Lieberman as Likud refused his entry into the war cabinet.

The synchronicity of these news items raises the possibility that individuals within Likud initiated this move as a signal to Gantz of potential replacements should he choose to exit.

However, swift rejections from Lapid and Lieberman, akin to recent maneuvers orchestrated by Netanyahu, suggest this was likely another spin.

The crux of the matter is: How much longer will this emergency government endure? The prevailing consensus is its precarious longevity, with dwindling prospects of a new hostage deal increasing the likelihood of its dissolution. Recent speculation about significant dialogue between the US and Qatar is one reason Gantz and Eisenkot opt to remain, as their departure could diminish chances for a new hostage deal.

Additionally, they ponder the impact of their resignation. Would it trigger a new election or government downfall?


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