5 National Unity ministers join government, including 2 former IDF chiefs of staff; Lapid accuses coalition of ‘unpardonable failure’; Health Ministry passes to Shas’s Uriel Buso
Five opposition lawmakers joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet on Thursday, forming a national emergency government meant to add decades of high-level security experience to the management of the war and isolate far-right influence, six days into Israel’s fight against terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
Speaking from the Knesset rostrum, Netanyahu called the Hamas terror onslaught that massacred over 1,300 — the vast majority of them civilians — and wounded more than 3,000, triggering the war, “the most horrible day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust,” saying it would be hard to find someone unaffected by Hamas’s “barbarism.”
The Knesset voted to approve adding five National Unity ministers to the government, 66 for and four against. Amid the mounting wartime strain on the national health system, the plenum also approved Shas MK Uriel Buso’s elevation to health minister, by a vote of 65 for and 0 against, stripping the portfolio from Interior Minister Moshe Arbel.
The agreement added National Unity MKs Benny Gantz, Gadi Eisenkot, Gideon Sa’ar, Chili Tropper and Yifat Shasha-Biton to the government, as ministers without portfolio. All will sit on the security cabinet, although Shasha-Biton will only hold observer status. Both Gantz and Eisenkot are former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff, and Gantz is a former defense minister.
Gantz will also sit on a war cabinet with Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Eisenkot and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a Netanyahu confidant, will join the war cabinet as observers.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid made early overtures to form a unity government with Netanyahu, but was not part of the final deal. On Thursday, Lapid said that his Yesh Atid party would continue to support the war effort from outside the coalition, but he would not join the government because he does not believe it would work.
National Unity and Likud agreed to reserve a spot for Lapid in the war cabinet, should he join the government in the future, according to the thin deal signed by Gantz and Netanyahu.
The IDF has set destroying Hamas’s military capabilities and eliminating its leadership as its goal for the war, which is expected to continue for months. For the past six days, the Israeli Air Force has hammered targets in the Gaza Strip, and the Hamas-run Health Ministry says over 1,300 have been killed.
Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will “crush” and “eliminate” Hamas, comparing it to the brutal Islamic State group and echoing Gallant’s Wednesday assertion that Hamas “will be wiped off the face of the earth.”
“This,” Netanyahu said, “is a fight for our home.”
The premier added that “the Jewish people… have withstood dark challenges, perhaps more than any other nation. But we’ve never given up.”
Signaling a national pause on nine months of social unrest tied to his government’s judicial overhaul plans, the premier added: “We stand before this conflict together in internal fraternity and with mutual concern.”
Source: Intenational Media