Netanyahu to Gain More Power by Dissolving War Cabinet

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister for over 15 years, is a seasoned politician known for his strategic moves to tighten his grip on the administration. It is certain that someone who has been in power for this long will always crave more authority, and Netanyahu is now taking control by dissolving the war cabinet formed after the Hamas attack on Israel. This move reflects his increased confidence, which has risen along with his poll numbers since the departure of opposition leader Gantz from the war cabinet amidst disputes. The war cabinet had been a source of friction between Netanyahu and other members, particularly over the issue of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other groups. Now free from consulting with opposition leaders and those with differing political views, Netanyahu’s power is strengthened.

Even though the war cabinet had functioned effectively, convening numerous times since Hamas’s surprise attack on southern Israel’s Gaza border communities on October 7, the move comes amid divisions of opinion between Netanyahu and senior Israel Defense Forces commanders. With the announcement of the dissolution to ministers, the Prime Minister stated that the war cabinet had been established as part of an agreement when the moderate politician Benny Gantz and his political party, the National Unity Party, joined an emergency coalition last year. This move managed the conflict in Gaza, blocked Netanyahu’s far-right allies attempts to secure seats, and seemingly consolidated his decision-making control over the fighting with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah across the Lebanese border.

Netanyahu reportedly told ministers that the war cabinet was no longer needed following Benny Gantz’s resignation from the cabinet a week ago. Gantz, one of the members of the war cabinet, quit the coalition along with Gadi Eisenkot, one of the three observers in the body. David Mencer, a spokesperson for the prime minister’s office, said the war cabinet was a “Prerequisite” for Gantz, a former army chief and defense minister, to join a unity government. He added, “So with Mr. Gantz leaving the government, there is no need for the cabinet. War cabinet’s  duties will be taken over by the security cabinet”. This move appears to be a deliberate snub to Netanyahu’s far-right allies in the coalition, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who had been seeking a seat in the war cabinet since Gantz’s departure, and reportedly  recently threatening Netanyahu that they will resign if the ceasefire bring by Netanyhau with swap deal and had complained about being excluded from key decisions.

Despite pressure from the Biden administration to keep the war cabinet intact, seen by some as a more moderate forum, Netanyahu’s decision to sideline Ben-Gvir and the finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, was interpreted by analysts as a way to uphold his intent to persevere with the conflict. The disbanding of the war cabinet was confirmed by Israeli officials amid mounting discontent over the conduct of the war in Gaza and calls from anti-government groups for a week of daily protests. There are also Netanyahu-supported opinion polls reporting support for his actions. Netanyahu is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including the defense minister, Yoav Gallant, and the strategic affairs minister, Ron Dermer, who had been in the war cabinet. Reports in the Israeli Hebrew-language media suggested that Netanyahu plans to make key decisions in meetings with his own advisers, excluding Ben-Gvir, before presenting them to the security cabinet. In the immediate aftermath of the war cabinet’s dissolution, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth speculated that some key decisions would now be made by an expanded cabinet, sometimes including up to 50 participants, where more hawkish voices dominate, providing Netanyahu with greater political cover for the ongoing conflict.

Despite Israel facing pressure from the Islamic world and the West, including the United States, to maintain its objective of making Gaza Hamas-free, the issue of Hamas holding hostages remains contentious in Israel. Opposition groups critical of Netanyahu’s leadership during the war have launched a week-long series of daily demonstrations, demanding a ceasefire, efforts to secure the release of hostages, and upcoming elections. The dissolution of the war cabinet is not expected to have a substantial impact on the conflict; decision-making will revert to the security cabinet. However, the political ramifications may be significant, and now the war will be more under Netanyahu’s control, with all the credit for the Hamas destruction project going to him.