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Israeli leaders mull forming emergency unity govt amid Hamas attack

By Harinder Mishra
Last updated on: October 08, 2023 16:21 IST
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Setting aside their differences, top Israeli leaders have discussed the possibility of forming an emergency national unity government to deal with the complex situation after the unprecedented attack by Hamas militants that has left at least 300 Israelis dead.

IMAGE: Israeli security personnel gather near a rifle at the site of a battle following a mass infiltration by Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip, in Sderot, southern Israel October 8, 2023. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz spoke on Saturday and discussed the possibility of joining Netanyahu's government because of the emergency created by Saturday's infiltration and rocket attacks from Gaza, Ha'aretz newspaper reported.


The two opposition leaders expressed their willingness, but Lapid demanded far-right leaders and ministers, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, be removed.
Gantz agreed to join alongside the two, the report said.

Netanyahu reportedly said that he offered the two leaders to join the wide emergency government when they met him for a security briefing, citing past Likud leader Menachem Begin's example of joining the-then Prime Minister Levi Eshkol's government on the eve of the war in 1967.

Opposition leader Lapid however refuted those claims saying that it was he who presented the option to form a government following a briefing with Netanyahu.

Lapid served as prime minister before Netanyahu returned to power last December.

Former defense minister Benny Gantz said that he is considering positively joining a government centred around the security situation. He has also served as the Chief of the Israel defence forces in the past.

Lapid reportedly said he had told Prime Minister Netanyahu that "during this emergency, I am willing to set aside all disagreements, form a professional, limited emergency government to manage the difficult, complex, and lengthy campaign we are facing".

In a statement, Lapid said Netanyahu was aware that "his radical and non-functional" cabinet couldn't manage a war.

"I have no doubt that former Defense Minister Benny Gantz will also join such a government," he reportedly said.

An emergency government "would make it clear to our enemies that an overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens stand behind the IDF and the defence bodies," Lapid stressed.

Gantz's party, National Unity, on the other hand, have said that they are willing to join an emergency government unconditionally, which can include Ben-Gvir and Smotrich serving as National Security and Finance Minister respectively.

A source, who presented himself as a high-ranking party official to The Ha'aretz, said that the National Unity party wants "to be able to make proper security decisions".

"If we will have enough meaningful power, Ben-Gvir will become a pawn. We won't break up the government as this will be a gift to Hamas. We will do anything to win this war, and then we will leave the government," he reportedly said.

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Harinder Mishra in Jerusalem
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