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Even with Israel at war, Netanyahu is already campaigning for next elections

Signs indicate that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu might not step down after the war is over, but rather will run again for the position of Israel’s leader.
Israel's Prime Minsiter Benjamin Netanyahu presents the new government to parliament at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Dec. 29, 2022.

JERUSALEM — Families of hostages held in Gaza accuse Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of prioritizing Israel's military campaign over negotiations with Hamas. In a poll published last Friday, 70% of Israelis felt Netanyahu should resign over the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, reflecting a growing political cleavage within Israeli society. 

Gadi Eisenkot, a retired army chief who serves in the emergency cabinet directing Israel’s war on Hamas, lost his son in Gaza last week. Master Sgt. (res.) Gal Meir Eisenkot, 25, was killed during an operation to retrieve the bodies of two Israelis held by Hamas. As a mark of the esteem in which he is held, thousands came to comfort the respected, unassuming general and his family during the seven-day Jewish mourning period — religious and ultra-Orthodox Israelis, leftists and right-wingers, captains of industry, judges and lawyers and many ordinary Israelis. 

Eisenkot is a member of the opposition National Unity faction, but he is the ultimate anti-politician, the complete opposite of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose war cabinet he joined after the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre. Despite pressure from many in his political camp, including former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who warned him that the move would only strengthen Netanyahu's extremist government, Eisenkot convinced his party leader Benny Gantz that it was the right thing to do under the exigent circumstances. 

"We are soldiers before we are politicians," Eisenkot told Gantz, whom he replaced as chief of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in 2015 and subsequently joined on the political field. An associate of Eisenkot present at the conversation cited that phrase. Gantz did not need much convincing, telling associates that he was aware of the pitfalls but knew it was the right move, even if it derailed his political career.

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