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Israeli war Cabinet member calls for September elections amid Gaza war



 Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against the Israeli government and to demand a secure release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 attacks, in Jerusalem on March 31, 2024. [AFP]

Israel war Cabinet member Benny Gantz on Wednesday called for national elections in September, 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, toward 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 out on top in any election and he would be the favorite to take over as premier.

Netanyahu has pledged to bring the hostages home, as well as destroy Hamas, although it is unclear how Israel would be able to do so, and experts doubt that it is even possible. Israel's unrelenting air, ground and sea assault has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry, 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 October 7, in which some 1,200 people were killed and scores of hostages taken, according to Israeli tallies.

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

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