Netanyahu: Gantz issuing ultimatum to me instead of to Hamas

War minister’s threat to leave the government means “an Israeli defeat,” says the prime minister.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at War Minister Benny Gantz an hour after the main rival for his seat issued a threat to leave the government if six conditions he listed aren’t met by June 8.

“While our heroic soldiers are fighting to destroy the Hamas battalions in Rafah, Gantz chooses to set an ultimatum to the Prime Minister instead of setting an ultimatum to Hamas,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement.

“The conditions set by Benny Gantz are empty words whose meaning is clear: an end to the war and an Israeli defeat, abandoning most of the hostages, leaving Hamas intact, and establishing a Palestinian state. Our soldiers did not fall in vain and certainly not for the sake of replacing ‘Hamastan’ with ‘Fatahstan.'”

Gantz had blasted Netanyahu for “not doing what needs to be done” in forming a “day after” plan for Gaza. He included unnamed others when saying that “The truth is…while Israeli soldiers show supreme bravery on the front, some of the people who sent them into battle behave with cowardice and irresponsibility.”

The foremost of his specifically war-related conditions was the return of the hostages, as if this was contingent solely on Israel and not the terror organization that kidnapped 253 people on October 7, including dozens of foreigners such as Thai workers.

The other two were the defeat of Hamas and the demilitarization of Gaza, and the creation of a governing body for Gaza that would be a coalition of US, European, moderate Arab, and non-Hamas and non-Fatah Palestinians.

The third condition is also obviously not in Israel’s power alone to achieve. None of these possible partners have evinced any interest in getting involved in the Gaza quagmire.

The PMO countered with three questions for Gantz to answer if he “prefers the national interest and is not looking for an excuse to overthrow the government.”

These were:

  1. Is he willing to complete the operation in Rafah to destroy the Hamas battalions, and if so, how can he be threatening to dismantle the emergency government in the middle of the operation?
  2. Does he oppose civilian rule of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Gaza, even without [President Mahmoud] Abbas?
  3. Is he willing to accept a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria as part of the normalization process with Saudi Arabia?
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The last question relates to Gantz’s fifth condition, which was to take steps towards normalization with Saudi Arabia, including moving towards a “treaty with the free world and Arab countries against Iran.”

Netanyahu, the statement continued, does not intend to stop until the several thousand Hamas fighters in Rafah are eliminated, and completely rejects the presence of the PA in Gaza or the establishment of any Palestinian state, “which will inevitably be a terror state.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken proposed in April to a group of five Arab countries and the PA that after a ceasefire and an exchange of the hostages for Palestinian prisoners, the PA should return to rule the Gaza Strip with an unspecified “technocratic committee.”

Saudi-Israeli normalization of ties would be included in the second phase of the plan.

Another part of it would be a reconciliation of all Palestinian factions, including an allegedly disarmed Hamas, that would all be part of the Palestinian state whose borders would also be negotiated with Israel at this time.