ballot push

Benny Gantz calls for Israeli election in September

The war cabinet member said leaders must regain the public’s trust in anticipation of a long war effort

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, talks to the media after a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) at the U.S. Capitol on March 04, 2024, in Washington, D.C.

Israeli war cabinet Minister Benny Gantz called on Wednesday for the country to hold an election in September, arguing that a new election was necessary to regain the public’s trust.

“In order to preserve unity and succeed in the missions ahead of us, the public must know that we will soon ask for its trust again,” Gantz said in the Knesset. “Therefore, we must reach an agreed-upon election date in September, approaching a year to the war.”

Gantz suggested that having a set date for an election would prevent a schism in Israeli society, and allow for “all Zionist and responsible public leaders” to join an emergency unity government in the coming months.

Gantz said that “no military or diplomatic achievement will be worth it when we hear bereaved parents saying to us, ‘if the nation splits, our sons’ deaths will be in vain.'”

The war cabinet minister said he decided to call for an election after speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other political leaders in recent weeks. Those talks reportedly included coordination with some of Netanyahu’s coalition partners who agree that there should be an election later this year, according to ynet.

However, his emphasis on unity also came as a segment of the Hostages Families Forum joined forces with ongoing anti-Netanyahu protests, and their demonstrations devolved into clashes with police in recent days. He made his remarks about bereaved families as several such relatives lamented the disunity that has become more prominent in Israel over recent weeks. 

At the same time, following repeated confrontations in the Knesset, Gantz said that the prime minister should make sure all coalition members treat hostages’ families with respect.

“They deserve to know that the Israeli public is not against them but behind them,” he said. “We are doing everything to succeed — if there will be an opportunity [for a deal] we will not miss it. We cannot miss it.”

Gantz also spoke about the ongoing war, saying that “the most important security need is to change the reality in the north” such that the roughly 50,000 Israelis still displaced from their homes can return this summer.

“We must dedicate all our resources, military and diplomatic, to this. We must fulfill the covenant between a state and its citizens,” he stated.

As for the war in Gaza, he said: “We will continue fighting Hamas for many years.” 

Gantz also said he will personally work to advance a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia, which he said is “within reach” and “can be a central part of the effort to replace Hamas.” 

A Likud spokesman said following the speech that Gantz “must stop dealing in petty politics just because his party fell apart. An election now will lead to paralysis, divisions, harming the war effort in Rafah and deal a death blow to the chances for a hostage deal. The government will continue until it achieves all of the war aims.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who last month called for new Israeli elections, told JI, “When a leading member of Israel’s war cabinet calls for early elections and over 70% of the Israeli population agrees, according to a major poll, you know it’s the right thing to do.”

In order for there to be an election, a majority of the Knesset would have to vote to dissolve itself. Netanyahu’s coalition would still have 64 seats without Gantz’s party; therefore, his statement is unlikely to have a practical effect as long as none of Netanyahu’s other partners join the call for an election. However, if Gantz is, in fact, operating in coordination with other coalition parties, they could topple Netanyahu’s government.

The Knesset went into recess on Thursday and will not vote on non-emergency legislation until May 19, such that a bill triggering an election would be unlikely to be tabled in the coming weeks. The time between dissolving the Knesset and voting in a new one must be at least 90 days; as such, a law calling an election for September would have to pass by late June.

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