Chair of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel Smotrich
Chair of the Religious Zionist Party Bezalel SmotrichSderot conference - Kay Academic College

Background:On Saturday night, Blue and White party leader Minister Benny Gantz, who is a member of the War Cabinet and unity government, threatened PM Netanyahu wirh an ultimatum for ending the war, qnnouncing how he feels Gaza should be governed - giving his take on a topic the PM has said must wait for the end of the war - for freeing the hostages and for returning the residents of northern israel to their homes. He named a date in June for leaving the unity government if his demands are not met Before that, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, after talking to Antony Blinken, held a press conference calling on Netanyahu not to leave Israeli civil control over Gaza and announcing his own plan for Gaza after the war.

Gantz also referred to the Religious Zionist party in a derogatory way (see below).

The following is Finance Minister Smotrich's response to the ultimatum:

What MK Benny Gantz did yesterday is much more than irresponsibility, it borders on the criminal.

While the best of our people, IDF fighters and commanders, are risking their lives and some are losing their lives in a war of survival, he sticks a knife in their backs, weakening them as well as the war effort – and in essence tells them that they are dying for nothing because the war has been lost.

All this in order to weaken the Prime Minister a minute before the American advisor on national security lands in Israel in an attempt to solve or at the very least lower the level of our differences with the USA.

Gantz spoke about “a small minority that took over the command bridge and is leading the ship towards the rocks.” After that, as he usually does, in a move to do away with the legitimacy of anyone who things differently than he, he also descrbed us as “extremists.” I have been biting my lips for seven months in the face of Gantz’s unacceptable demand [not to allow me into the War Cabinet] and gloss over his ignoring me and tens of thousands of Religious Zionist IDF fighters while I swallow whole the decisions of the War Cabinet, all this for the sake of unity.

Yes, for months I have been gnashing my teeth silently in the face of decisions made by the War Cabinet of which I do not approve, the heads of which were all party to the longterm egregious conception [of the security situation, ed.] which brought us to this point. I bite my lips and support them in order to have the back of our soldiers, to strengthen them, to preserve the so crucial unity we need. I voted for the first hostage deal, and I am proud of that, but mostly because I did not want our soldiers and commanders to think we have stopped the war.

Looking at the high level of responsible behavior we have evinced since the start of the war, what Benny Gantz, the self-styled statesmanlike** leader, did yesterday in order to get back a few Knesset seats he lost in the polls, is unforgivable.

We will continue on with the people and for the people, with steadfastness and perseverance, with complete faith in the righteousness of our path. We will destroy Hamas and rule Gaza as much as is necessary to ensure the security of the residents of the south and the return of the hostages.

We will attack Hezbollah forcefully and bring back security to our northern residents, and most importantly we will not stand around holding an impatient and irresponsbile stopwatch, the most dangerous way to do things in the Middle East.

Notes:

*Gantz refused to join the War Cabinet if Smotrich were a member, ed.

** The Hebrew name for Benny Gantz’s party is Mamlachti, i.e. statesmanlike, in Hebrew

Analysis:

Most pundits feel Gantz wishes to leave the unity government for his own political ends and is trying to justify the move in advance. Reactions from much of the public were furious and there were calls for Gallant and Gantz's resignations.

Reactions included these two questions:

-How did the two find the time to plan for after the war, when they should be concentrating full time on winnng the war while keeping our soldiers safe?

-Why do they think their opinions matter? All they were kept on for was so that we could fight the war without switching horses in midstream, but these are two of the main characters who failed us on October 7th. We don't trust their opinions and we do not want to hear from them on anything but how they are waging the war. At its end, we expect them to disappear from public view.