Israel war cabinet member Gantz calls for September elections amid Gaza assault

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israel war cabinet member Benny Gantz called for national elections in September on Wednesday, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government faces pressure at home and abroad over the war in Gaza.

“We must agree on a date for elections in September, towards a year to the war if you will,” Gantz said in a televised briefing. “Setting such a date will allow us to continue the military effort while signaling to the citizens of Israel that we will soon renew their trust in us.”

Thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets in recent days demanding new elections. Many have criticized Netanyahu and expressed anger at his government’s handling of the 134 Israeli hostages still held in Gaza six months into the war.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has repeatedly ruled out early elections, which opinion polls suggest he would lose, saying that to go to the polls in the middle of a war would only reward Hamas, the Islamist movement that ruled Gaza.

His Likud party on Wednesday said Gantz must “stop engaging in petty politics” during the war. “Elections now will bring about paralysis, division, harm to the fighting in Rafah and a fatal blow to the chances of a hostage deal,” Likud said.

Gantz, a former army general, joined Netanyahu’s government in the early days of the war as a gesture of political unity during the crisis. Polls suggest his party would come top in any election and he would be favourite to take over as premier.

Netanyahu has pledged to bring the hostages home, as well as destroy Hamas, though it is unclear how Israel would be able to do so and experts doubt that is even possible. Israel’s unrelenting air, ground and sea assault has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, and led to a humanitarian catastrophe.

Surveys indicate that most Israelis disapprove of Netanyahu’s leadership since the Hamas-led attack on communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, in which around 1,200 were killed and scores of hostages taken, according to Israeli tallies.

If left unchanged, the next vote for parliament is set for Oct. 27, 2026, per Israel’s Central Elections Committee.

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