Israeli war cabinet caves to US on gas: ministers are furious

Nov 17, 2023 6:01 pm | Ticker, Virtual Jerusalem

Smotrich demands remake of war cabinet after decision to allow fuel entry to Gaza, despite promise

In the wake of Israel’s war cabinet approving fuel aid to Gaza, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has vehemently demanded a reformation of the cabinet’s structure. The cabinet’s decision, influenced by joint recommendations from the IDF and the Israel Security Service (Shin Bet), was to facilitate the entry of diesel fuel to assist the United Nations with vital water and sewer infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.

Smotrich, in a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu, articulated his strong disapproval of the current cabinet members’ decision-making, advocating for each coalition faction head’s inclusion in the war cabinet. He labeled the action of transferring fuel as “unacceptable,” asserting that it “spits in the face of the IDF soldiers, the hostages and their families, and the bereaved families.”

The finance minister further emphasized the decision’s opposition to the war’s objectives, stating, “This is not how you win a war, this is not how you destroy Hamas, and this is how we will not return the hostages.”

Smotrich’s contention is that the gesture of goodwill towards Gaza indicates an erroneous message, as he expressed, “It conveys weakness, injects oxygen into the enemy, and allows Sinwar to sit in an air-conditioned bunker comfortably, watch the news, and continue to manipulate Israeli society and the hostages’ families.”

He stressed the need for a harsher stance, saying, “And this instead of beating him and his accomplices, the leaders of Hamas abroad mercilessly, until the last survivors there beg us to agree to accept our hostages back unconditionally.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz, however, offered a different perspective, emphasizing that the cabinet’s decision was not indicative of a strategic shift but rather “a specific response that serves the IDF’s continued fighting.”

As the controversy unfolds, other political leaders have also weighed in. Avigdor Liberman criticized the move for lacking a concurrent humanitarian gesture for the hostages. Itamar Ben-Gvir questioned the sensibility of offering “humanitarian gifts” to the enemy without reciprocity, and Tali Gotliv along with MK Ohad Tal called for accountability from Israeli leaders for this decision.

The debate rages on as the political-security cabinet is set to convene for further discussions, with the nation’s strategy and humanitarian obligations at the forefront of this contentious issue.