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Netanyahu dissolved his war Cabinet. How will that affect cease-fire efforts?

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Netanyahu dissolved his war Cabinet. How will that affect cease-fire efforts?
News

News

Netanyahu dissolved his war Cabinet. How will that affect cease-fire efforts?

2024-06-18 19:49 Last Updated At:20:00

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disbanded his war Cabinet Monday, a move that consolidates his influence over the Israel-Hamas war and likely diminishes the odds of a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip anytime soon.

Netanyahu announced the step days after his chief political rival, Benny Gantz, withdrew from the three-member war Cabinet. Gantz, a retired general and member of parliament, was widely seen as a more moderate voice.

Major war policies will now be solely approved by Netanyahu's security Cabinet — a larger body that is dominated by hard-liners who oppose the U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal and want to press ahead with the war.

Netanyahu is expected to consult on some decisions with close allies in ad-hoc meetings, said an Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

These closed-door meetings could blunt some of the influence of the hard-liners. But Netanyahu himself has shown little enthusiasm for the cease-fire plan and his reliance on the full security Cabinet could give him cover to prolong a decision.

Here’s key background about the war Cabinet, and what disbanding it means for cease-fire prospects:

The war Cabinet was formed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel when Gantz, an opposition party leader, joined with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in a show of unity.

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

But Gantz left the Cabinet earlier this month after months of mounting tensions over Israel’s strategy in Gaza.

He said he was fed up with a lack of progress bringing home the dozens of Israeli hostages held by Hamas. He accused Netanyahu of drawing out the war to avoid new elections and a corruption trial. He called on Netanyahu to endorse a plan that — among other points — would rescue the captives and end Hamas rule in Gaza.

When Netanyahu did not express support for the plan, Gantz announced his departure. He said that “fateful strategic decisions” in the Cabinet were being “met with hesitancy and procrastination due to political considerations.”

The disbanding of the war Cabinet only further distances Netanyahu from centrist politicians more open to a cease-fire deal with Hamas.

Months of cease-fire talks have failed to find common ground between Hamas and Israeli leaders. Both Israel and Hamas have been reluctant to fully endorse a U.S.-backed plan that would return hostages, clear the way for an end to the war, and commence a rebuilding effort of the decimated territory.

Netanyahu will now rely on the members of his security Cabinet, some of whom oppose cease-fire deals and have voiced support for reoccupying Gaza.

After Gantz's departure, Israel's ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, demanded inclusion in a renewed war Cabinet. Monday's move could help keep Ben-Gvir at a distance, but it cannot sideline him altogether.

The move also gives Netanyahu leeway to draw out the war to stay in power. Netanyahu's critics accuse him of delaying because an end to the war would mean an investigation into the government's failures on Oct. 7 and raise the likelihood of new elections when the prime minister's popularity is low.

“It means that he will make all the decisions himself, or with people that he trusts who don’t challenge him,” said Gideon Rahat, chairman of the political science department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank. “And his interest is in having a slow-attrition war.”

FILE - From left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz speak during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 28, 2023. Israeli officials said Monday, June 17, 2024, that Netanyahu has dissolved the influential War Cabinet that was tasked with steering the war in Gaza. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE - From left, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz speak during a news conference in the Kirya military base in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 28, 2023. Israeli officials said Monday, June 17, 2024, that Netanyahu has dissolved the influential War Cabinet that was tasked with steering the war in Gaza. (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP, File)

People take part in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, demanding new elections and the release of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip, outside of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

People take part in a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, demanding new elections and the release of the hostages held in the Gaza Strip, outside of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The director of the Secret Service says the assassination attempt of former President Donald Trump was the agency's “most significant operational failure” in decades.

Director Kimberly Cheatle told lawmakers Monday during a congressional hearing: “On July 13, we failed." Cheatle says she takes full responsibility for the agency's missteps related to the attack at Trump’s Pennsylvania rally earlier this month.

Cheatle was testifying Monday before a congressional committee as calls mount for her to resign over security failures at a rally where a 20-year-old gunman attempted to assassinate the Republican former president.

The House Oversight Committee heard Cheatle's first appearance before lawmakers since the July 13 Pennsylvania rally shooting that left one spectator dead. Trump was wounded in the ear and two other attendees were injured after Thomas Matthew Crooks climbed atop the roof of a nearby building and opened fire.

Lawmakers have been expressing anger over how the gunman could get so close to the Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. The Secret Service has acknowledged it denied some requests by Trump's campaign for increased security at his events in the years before the assassination attempt.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has called what happened a “failure” while several lawmakers have called on Cheatle to resign or for President Joe Biden to fire her. The Secret Service has said Cheatle does not intend to step down. So far, she retains the support of Biden, a Democrat, and Mayorkas.

Before the shooting, local law enforcement had noticed Crooks pacing around the edges of the rally, peering into the lens of a rangefinder toward the rooftops behind the stage where the president later stood, officials have told The Associated Press. An image of Crooks was circulated by officers stationed outside the security perimeter.

Witnesses later saw him climbing up the side of a squat manufacturing building that was within 135 meters (157 yards) from the stage. He then set up his AR-style rifle and lay on the rooftop, a detonator in his pocket to set off crude explosive devices that were stashed in his car parked nearby.

The attack on Trump was the most serious attempt to assassinate a president or presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981. It was the latest in a series of security lapses by the agency that has drawn investigations and public scrutiny over the years.

Authorities have been hunting for clues into what motivated Crooks, but so far have not found any ideological bent that could help explain his actions. Investigators who searched his phone found photos of Trump, Biden and other senior government officials, and also found that he had looked up the dates for the Democratic National Conventional as well as Trump’s appearances. He also searched for information about major depressive order.

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in to testify before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

U.S. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is sworn in to testify before the House Oversight and Accountability Committee about the attempted assassination of former President Donald Trump at a campaign event in Pennsylvania that also saw one rallygoer killed and two others seriously wounded, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, July 22, 2024. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he is helped off the stage at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., July 13, 2024. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following the assassination attempt on Trump. People across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a "zero fail mission." (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump is surrounded by U.S. Secret Service agents as he is helped off the stage at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa., July 13, 2024. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following the assassination attempt on Trump. People across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a "zero fail mission." (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

FILE - Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle attends a news conference, June 4, 2024, in Chicago. Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump during a rally Saturday, July 13, in Pennsylvania. He was injured and people across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a “zero fail mission.” (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

FILE - Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle attends a news conference, June 4, 2024, in Chicago. Cheatle and the Secret Service are under intense scrutiny following an assassination attempt on former President Donald Trump during a rally Saturday, July 13, in Pennsylvania. He was injured and people across the political spectrum are wondering how a gunman could get so close to the presumptive Republican presidential nominee when he was supposed to be carefully guarded. Cheatle has talked about how the Secret Service has a “zero fail mission.” (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

Secret Service chief questioned over security failures before Trump assassination attempt

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