Skip to content Skip to footer

Far Right National Security Minister Demands Seat on the Israeli War Cabinet

Itamar Ben-Gvir swiftly sought more power following Benny Gantz’s resignation from Israel’s emergency government.

Israel's National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir joins Jewish nationalists, including far right activists, rallying at Jerusalem's Damascus Gate on June 5, 2024.

As Benny Gantz of Israel’s National Unity party ditched the country’s emergency government and called for elections on Sunday — after briefly delaying his exit due to a deadly hostage rescue operation in the Gaza Strip — far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir swiftly sought more power.

Following the Hamas-led attack on October 7, an emergency government was formed and Gantz — a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of general staff — joined the Israeli War Cabinet, whose other members are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, both Likud party members.

There are also three observers on the Israeli War Cabinet, including Gadi Eisenkot, another ex-military chief who co-founded National Unity with Gantz and also left the panel on Sunday. Additionally, IDF Brig. Gen. Avi Rosenfeld, commander of the Gaza Division, announced his resignation as the Israeli assault on the besieged enclave continued.

In a social media post, Ben-Gvir shared his letter to Netanhayu demanding a seat on the Israeli War Cabinet. The Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party leader — known for making statements about Palestinians denounced globally as genocidal — said that “the time has come to make brave decisions, achieve real deterrence, and bring security to the residents of the south, the north, and Israel as a whole.”

The letter came after Ben-Gvir made similar remarks earlier Sunday signaling his quest for more influence at a conference in Tel Aviv. The Times of Israel reported that he said, “I will demand that [the electoral strength I hold] be given expression and not as it has been until now,” and suggested that if decision-makers had listened to him, “maybe October 7 would have looked different.”

As the newspaper detailed:

Ben-Gvir says that his vision is to “conquer Gaza and [go to] war with Hezbollah,” adding that if Netanyahu agrees to a “reckless” hostage deal, “I’m not there.”

He also offers Gantz a good riddance, welcoming his impending resignation.

“We agreed that he would enter the government, and we thought he came to create unity, but in reality he came to create chaos and promote his political agenda,” Ben-Gvir says, according to Hebrew media. “I think their departure is important, and I need to return to being a leading force like I was before Gantz entered the government.”

National Unity has eight members, including Gantz and Eisenkot, in the Knesset, Israel’s 120-seat parliament. For now, Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition retains a 64-seat majority: 32 Likud members; 11 Shas members; seven United Torah Judaism members; seven Religious Zionism members, including Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich; six Jewish Power members; and one Noam member.

While Gantz is often described as a “centrist” that some in the U.S. government hope will eventually be Israel’s prime minister, critics on Sunday highlighted his long military career and how he has talked about it, including in political campaign messaging.

“Gantz is a literal representation of Israel’s military since the 1970s — participating either as a soldier or leader in Israel’s sieges of Lebanon and the occupied West Bank, Golan Heights, and Gaza,” said U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights policy manager Mohammed Khader. “He’s no better than Netanyahu, regardless of his support and award from the U.S.”

Thousands of people descended on the White House in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to protest U.S. weapons and diplomatic support for the war, which as of Sunday has killed at least 37,084 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded another 84,494, according to officials in the Hamas-governed enclave.

Officials said those tallies include at least 274 people — among them, 64 children and teenagers, 57 women, and 37 seniors — killed and 698 others wounded Saturday in an Israeli raid on the Nuseirat refugee camp to rescue four hostages taken from Israel in October. Hamas claimed the operation killed three other hostages including a U.S. citizen.

Responding to the raid in a statement Sunday, Democracy for the Arab World Now executive director Sarah Leah Whitson said that “Israeli officials should be held responsible for this grotesque, botched Israeli operation — massacring not only 274 Palestinians, mostly women and children, but reportedly also killing three hostages, including a U.S. citizen — because it has violated the most basic laws of war requiring distinction and proportionality.”

“By providing intelligence and logistics support for this operation, the Biden administration has now made the U.S. a party to this conflict and placed U.S. forces at risk for attack as legitimate military targets,” Whitson continued, citing a Washington Post report.

“While it’s a relief that a few hostages were released, this entire stunt was unnecessary given the ongoing cease-fire negotiations that include the release of all civilian hostages,” she added. “Israel didn’t need to carry out this operation; a diplomatic solution was already on the table, which would have secured the safe release of all hostages without further bloodshed.”

A critical message, before you scroll away

You may not know that Truthout’s journalism is funded overwhelmingly by individual supporters. Readers just like you ensure that unique stories like the one above make it to print – all from an uncompromised, independent perspective.

At this very moment, we’re conducting a fundraiser with a goal to raise $13,000. So, if you’ve found value in what you read today, please consider a tax-deductible donation in any size to ensure this work continues. We thank you kindly for your support.