Benny Gantz Urges Netanyahu to Schedule Israeli Elections for September

Benny Gantz Urges Netanyahu to Schedule Israeli Elections for September

Israel’s political system should agree to hold a national election in September as it approaches a year since the war against Hamas broke out on October 7, National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz said in a press conference on Wednesday evening.

The statement marks the first time Gantz mentioned a specific month as a date for an election since joining Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an emergency government days after the Hamas massacre in October.

Gantz said that he had spoken to “political leaders” in recent weeks on the topic, that he had updated the prime minister, and that he would “continue dialogue on the subject.”

According to Gantz, an agreement to go to an election will give Israel the time it needs to continue its war efforts while enabling the citizens of Israel to know that “trust will soon be renewed between us.”

This will also prevent a schism amongst the people and hopefully allow other “Zionist and responsible” leaders to join the government during the interim period, Gantz said.

Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset, in Jerusalem, April 3, 2024 (credit: Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

‘Quiet in the ballot box, not flames in the streets’

He also argued that this would give Israel international backing.

Gantz’s statement came a night after a stormy protest in Jerusalem in which a protester threw a torch at a police cavalry officer, and police officers used force against family members of hostages.

“What Israel needs is “quiet in the ballot box, not flames in the streets,” Gantz emphasized.

He stopped short of saying that he would leave the government if the prime minister did not accept his demand. “We will do everything for our proposal to be accepted. I will not detail what Netanyahu said in response,” he noted.

Gantz did, however, reiterate the position that he would leave the government if it ceased “truly acting” to bring back the hostages.

His call for an election came after United Right chairman, MK Gideon Sa’ar, called earlier on Wednesday for a consensus election in January, joining similar calls by opposition parties Yesh Atid, Yisrael Beytenu, and Labor.

Gantz stands to gain politically from an election. His National Unity party won 12 seats in the previous election, but now numbers only eight seats after Sa’ar’s faction broke away from Gantz in March. However, in polls, Gantz has consistently passed 30 seats, while the Likud, led by Netanyahu, which currently has 32 seats, in polls has not even reached 20.

The Likud said in response, “At a fateful moment for the State of Israel and amid a war, Benny Gantz must stop dealing in petty politics just because of the breakup of his party. An election now will necessarily bring paralysis, divisiveness, damage to the fighting in Rafah, and critical damage to the chances for a hostage deal. The government will continue until reaching all of the war’s goals.”

The call for an election in September came towards the end of Gantz’s speech. He began it by making several points regarding the security situation. First, that the wish to bring home the hostages is a source of strength, and the government is doing everything it can to do so. Second, that the most important front was the North, as the security situation must enable evacuated residents to return. Finally, that a normalization agreement with Saudi Arabia which would lead to a “regional treaty” against Iran was “within reach” and could also assist in replacing Hamas in Gaza.

Sa’ar criticized Gantz for these comments.

“Gantz is part of the failing and clueless war cabinet that led Israel into a dead end in this war,” Sa’ar accused, adding that Gantz had not laid out any plans in detail. “For empty slogans, there is no need to convene a celebratory press conference. We have heard enough of these already,” Sa’ar said.

Sa’ar criticized Gantz for these comments. “Gantz is part of the failing and clueless war cabinet that led Israel into a dead end in this war,” Sa’ar accused, adding that Gantz had not laid out any plans in detail. “For empty slogans there is no need to convene a celebratory press conference. We have heard enough of these already,” Sa’ar said.

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid said in response that Israel could not wait another six months for the “worst, most dangerous, and most failing government in the country’s history” to “go home.”

Rather, the government needs to be toppled “as soon as possible,” Lapid said.

Former MK and a candidate to lead the left-wing camp in the next election, Yair Golan claimed that the speech proved that in the “choice between saving the State of Israel and saving the catastrophic Netanyahu government, Gantz chose the latter, and not for the first time.” 

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer responded to the Jerusalem Post‘s report, writing on X that “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.”



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