Benny Gantz, Netanyahu’s top rival, calls for early elections after protests in Israel – The Guardian

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Israeli minister Benny Gantz, a member of the war cabinet and main rival of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has called for snap parliamentary elections in September, as pressure builds over the war in Gaza.

“We must set a consensual date for the month of September, or if you prefer for the first anniversary of the war,” Gantz, said on Wednesday during a speech from his office in Israel’s parliament.

Netanyahu has been facing pressure from several sides in recent weeks, particularly since Saturday, where demonstrations brought together thousands of people calling for the prime minister’s removal.

It includes protests demanding boosted efforts to secure the release of hostages taken in Hamas’s 7 October attack that sparked war in Gaza.

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The prime minister’s Likud party rejected the call for an early election, but it was welcomed by the leader of the US Senate, Chuck Schumer, who last month urged new elections in a strident criticism of Netanyahu’s handling of the conflict.

“When a leading member of Israel’s war cabinet calls for early elections and over 70 percent of the Israeli population agrees according to a major poll, you know it’s the right thing to do,” Senator Schumer wrote on X.

Early elections require the agreement of 61 elected officials, or the majority of deputies in the Knesset, where the Likud has the most seats but does not have a majority.

Likud said a national poll while Israel is at war “would inevitably lead to paralysis” and harm the military’s fight in Gaza.

According to the latest polls, in the event of early elections, Gantz would be well ahead of Netanyahu, whose popularity has been declining since 7 October.

The attack resulted in the deaths of 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, mainly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official data.

Palestinian militants took more than 250 hostages and presently 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 32,975 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

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