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Israeli War Cabinet member says he'll quit government June 8 unless new war plan is adopted

Fighting intensifies in northern Gaza
Fighting intensifies in northern Gaza; body of fourth hostage recovered 02:54

Benny Gantz, a centrist member of Israel's three-member War Cabinet, threatened on Saturday to resign from the government if it doesn't adopt a new plan in three weeks' time for the war in Gaza, a move that would leave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu more reliant on his far-right allies.

His announcement escalates a divide within Israel's leadership more than seven months into a war in which it has yet to accomplish its stated goals of dismantling Hamas and returning scores of hostages abducted in the Oct. 7 attack.

Gantz spelled out a six-point plan that includes the return of scores of hostages, ending Hamas' rule, demilitarizing the Gaza strip and establishing an international administration of civilian affairs. It also supports efforts to normalize relations with Saudi Arabia.

He says if it is not adopted by June 8 he will quit the government. "If you choose the path of fanatics and lead the entire nation to the abyss — we will be forced to quit the government," he said.

Gantz, a popular politician and longtime political rival of Netanyahu, joined his coalition and the War Cabinet in the early days of the war.

Israel Palestinians
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, speaks on Nov. 18, 2022. Michael Varaklas / AP

The departure of the former military chief of staff and defense minister would leave Netanyahu even more beholden to far-right allies who have taken a hard line on negotiations over a cease-fire and hostage release, and who believe Israel should occupy Gaza and rebuild Jewish settlements there.

Gantz spoke days after Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the third member of the War Cabinet, openly said he has repeatedly pleaded with the Cabinet to decide on a postwar vision for Gaza that would see the creation of a new Palestinian civilian leadership.

Netanyahu is under growing pressure on multiple fronts. Hard-liners in his government want the military offensive on Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah to press ahead with the goal of crushing Hamas. Top ally the U.S. and others have warned against the offensive on a city where more than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million had sheltered — hundreds of thousands have now fled — and they have threatened to scale back support over Gaza's humanitarian crisis.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan arrived in Saudi Arabia Sunday, where he was received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Reuters reported. He is also scheduled to travel to Israel this weekend and meet with Netanyahu, who has declared that Israel would "stand alone" if needed.

Last week, the White House revealed that it had withheld a shipment of weapons to Israel over concerns the weapons would be used in a Rafah ground assault. President Biden also told CNN in an interview that if the Israelis "go into Rafah," then "I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah."

However, earlier this week, two congressional sources confirmed to CBS News that the Biden administration informed Congress that it intends to transfer $1 billion in weapons to Israel. 

That money is from a $95 billion foreign aid bill passed last month that provides military aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.  

Israel says IDF finds bodies of 3 hostages in Gaza 05:20

Many Israelis, anguished over the hostages and accusing Netanyahu of putting political interests ahead of all else, want a deal to stop the fighting and get them freed. There was fresh frustration Friday when the military said its troops in Gaza found the bodies of three hostages killed by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attack. 

The Israeli military reported Saturday that it had recovered the body of a fourth hostage, Ron Benjamin. According to Israeli Defense Forces, Benjamin is believed to have been killed during the Oct. 7 attack, and his body was taken to Gaza by Hamas militants.

The 53-year-old Benjamin leaves behind a wife and two children, according to the campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum. 

The latest talks in pursuit of a cease-fire, mediated by Qatar, the United States and Egypt, have brought little. A vision beyond the war is also uncertain.

The war began after Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage. Israel says there are now estimated to be 128 hostages still held captive in Gaza. 

The Israeli offensive has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, local health officials say, while hundreds more have been killed in the occupied West Bank.

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