Netanyahu dissolves War Cabinet after key departures fractures unity government

Aid agencies have cautiously welcomed a daily pause in fighting in Gaza, ITV News Correspondent John Irvine reports

Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the War Cabinet that unified the Israeli government and directed the conflict in Gaza after one of its key members quit the group last week.

The move was widely expected following the departure of Benny Gantz, a centrist former military chief, earlier this month.

Gantz’s absence from the government increases Netanyahu’s dependence on his ultranationalist allies, who oppose a ceasefire.

This could pose an additional challenge to the already fragile negotiations to end the eight-month war in Gaza.

The war will now be managed by Netanyahu in a smaller forum with some of his government members.

This small group include his far-right governing partners who have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

The War Cabinet was formed in the early days of the war, when Gantz, then an opposition party leader and Netanyahu rival, joined the coalition in a show of unity following the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel.

Gantz had demanded that a small decision-making body steer the war, in a bid to sideline far-right members of Netanyahu’s government.

Benny Gantz quit last week. Credit: AP

It was made up of three members - Gantz, Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant - and together they made important decisions throughout the course of the war.

The move to scrap the War Cabinet comes as Israel faces more pivotal decisions.

Israel and Hamas are weighing the latest proposal for a ceasefire in exchange for the release of hostages taken by Hamas during its attack.

Israeli troops are still bogged down in the Gaza Strip, fighting in the southern city of Rafah and against pockets of Hamas resurgence elsewhere.

Netanyahu has played a balancing act throughout the war between pressures from the growing global opposition to the war and from his government partners like Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who support continuing the fight.

Both have threatened to topple the government should Israel move ahead with a ceasefire deal.

The latest proposal being considered is part of the Biden administration’s most concentrated push to help wind down the war.

Critics say Netanyahu’s wartime decision-making has been influenced by the ultranationalists in his government and by his desire to remain in power.

Netanyahu denies the accusations and says he has the country’s best interests in mind.

Gantz’s departure, while not posing a direct threat to Netanyahu’s rule, rocked Israeli politics at a sensitive time.

The popular former military chief was seen as a statesman who boosted Israel’s credibility with its international partners at a time when Israel found itself at its most isolated.

Gantz is now an opposition party leader in parliament.

Netanyahu’s government is Israel’s most religious and nationalist ever. In Israel’s fractious parliamentary system, Netanyahu relies on a group of small parties to help keep his government afloat and without the support of Gantz’s party, Netanyahu is expected to be more beholden to the far-right allies.

While the Israeli government is reorganising, the war in Gaza is still ongoing.

On Sunday the Israeli military announced a daily "tactical pause" in its southern Gaza offensive to allow more deliveries of humanitarian aid into the territory.

UNICEF spokesperson James Elder warns the situation on the ground in southern Gaza is utter devestation

The daily pauses from 8am local time to 7pm until further notice, according to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).

The pause is aimed at allowing aid convoys to reach the nearby Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing - the main entry point for incoming aid - and travel safely to the Salah a-Din highway - a main north-south road in the Gaza Strip - to deliver supplies to other parts of Gaza.

Speaking about the pause, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder told ITV News: "We hope it's a baby step, but it's a, it's a very, very small potential piece of good news in what is otherwise just ongoing, ongoing bad news for children here."

But he cautioned the situation on the ground was still a disaster, saying even if the fighting stopped it would still be the highest level emergency the UN could classify based on the "devastation" and the "unprecedented levels of malnutrition among children."

He said "around 15,000 girls and boys have been killed" had been killed in the conflict so far.

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