Israel defence minister accuses Netanyahu of 'harming security' in cabinet bust up
Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has reportedly accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of harming Israel’s security, in the latest division to surface between the country’s officials over the Gaza war.
Netanyahu banned Gallant from holding meetings with the heads of Israel’s security and intelligence agencies – Shin Bet and Mossad respectively – to discuss the hostage situation and possibly a new prisoner swap deal with Hamas, Israeli Channel 12 reported.
Hamas took more than 200 people captive during its surprise attack in southern Israel on 7 October, but freed dozens as part of a mediated truce in November in return for the release of some Palestinian detainees.
During a one-on-one meeting with Netanyahu on the sidelines of a war cabinet meeting earlier this week, Gallant accused the premier of "harming Israel’s security" by not letting him hold individual meetings with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and Mossad chief David Barnea.
Netanyahu had reportedly prevented Bar and Barnea from participating in the meeting described as "sensitive", as well as Gallant and Herzi Halevi, the Israeli military's chief of staff.
Members of the war cabinet had to wait "a long time" until Netanyahu and Gallant arrived at the meeting following a "heated confrontation," Channel 12 said.
Netanyahu told Gallant during a separate meeting that any discussions with the heads of security and intelligence on sensitive issues related to the Gaza war which excluded him were "unacceptable".
The fiery exchange between the two ended without an understanding being reached, according to Channel 12.
Gallant has been tipped to be a future prime minister of Israel, following public anger over Netanyahu's handling of the war and a controversial overhaul of the judiciary.
Israel’s war cabinet meetings have seen disputes flare between political and security officials over the hostages, military conduct in Gaza, the future of the enclave, and domestic affairs.
Extremist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir recently argued with Halevi over internal military affairs, saying his ministry and the cabinet should be given a bigger say in the army – something Halevi refused.
The political divisions come amid increased pressure from the relatives of remaining hostages in Gaza on the government to secure their release.
Israel’s unprecedented bombardment of the Gaza Strip has killed over 22,000 people since 7 October, mostly women and children. The bombing has almost completely destroyed the enclave's infrastructure.
There are concerns that Israel intends to forcefully move the Palestinians out of Gaza. Some politicians, such as far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, have publicly made calls for their forced transfer to other countries.