Gantz’s resignation came with some advance notice. In mid-May, the member of the war cabinet gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an ultimatum: If Netanyahu did not formulate a strategy for the “day after” in Gaza within four weeks, he would leave the government, Gantz said.

And he set out six goals that Israel should achieve in this war. These include: the release of the hostages, the overthrow of Hamas and the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, the decision on an alternative government in the Gaza Strip, the advancement of normalization with Saudi Arabia and the adoption of a concept for military service for all Israeli citizens.

Netanyahu did not even respond to these demands. The ultimatum expired at the weekend.

With his resignation, opposition leader Gantz has done what many of his supporters have long expected. The so-called National Unity Government, which he joined after October 7, was characterized by mutual distrust from the very beginning.

Gantz clearly outperformed Netanyahu in polls. The majority saw the former army chief and ex-defense minister as the better prime minister. Netanyahu feared that Gantz wanted to overthrow the government and curtailed his influence. Gantz, in turn, accused Netanyahu of putting his political survival above Israel’s national interests.

Gantz and his colleagues from the National Unity Party declared the latter to be the main reason for their departure. Netanyahu had long prevented the war cabinet from making “important decisions that were necessary to achieve the war goals and improve Israel’s strategic position,” wrote Gadi Eizenkot, like Gantz a former chief of staff of the Israeli army.

Gantz said he only joined because Netanyahu’s coalition of ultra-Orthodox and extreme right-wing parties was a “bad government”: “The Israeli people, the fighters, the commanders, the families of the murdered, the injured and the hostages needed unity and support like the air they breathe.”

Gantz had wanted to create a counterweight to the extremists such as Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, who reject any deal with Hamas and are prepared to sacrifice the Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip.

Gantz promised the hostages’ relatives that, despite his resignation, he would continue to work for a deal with Hamas, which is currently being brokered between the warring parties by the USA. He called on Netanyahu to hold new elections in the autumn.

What will happen now without Gantz’s counterweight to the extremists in the government is unclear. The war cabinet previously consisted of three members: Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Joav Gallant – and Benny Gantz, who is now leaving. He also called on Gallant to “do the right thing” and also leave the government.

Gallant has already stated that he would resign if Israel reoccupies the Gaza Strip and called on the government to make plans for a Palestinian administration in Gaza. But Netanyahu has so far not revealed any ideas for a post-war Gaza.

Gantz’s departure comes at a very bad time for the head of government. Ben-Gvir, who is constantly causing trouble in the coalition, is already sensing his chance and is demanding to be part of the war cabinet. Netanyahu wants to prevent that. At the same time, the country is facing its greatest ordeal.

In Israel, in the midst of the war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah in Lebanon, conscription must now be reinstated. More precisely, the law that determines conscription for military service. Netanyahu still holds a majority of 64 of the 120 seats in the Knesset after Gantz’s departure. But draft laws for conscription have the potential to be divisive.

There is a general military conscription in Israel. Men must serve for around three years, women for two. There are exceptions; not everyone complies with the military requirement. Arab Israelis are not required to join the military. Apart from them, no other group enjoys such special treatment as the ultra-Orthodox, Netanyahu’s coalition partners.

It has been common practice for decades for ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to evade the draft by enrolling in religious schools and being repeatedly deferred from service for a year until they are above the draft age. In 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that such mass exemptions from military service are illegal. Since then, Israeli governments have tried unsuccessfully to draft new laws to regulate the matter and have repeatedly asked the court for a delay. But patience has run out.

Since October 7, hundreds of thousands of young men and women have been drafted. The country’s liberal center is tired of bearing the brunt of this war. Several organizations have filed petitions with the Supreme Court demanding the immediate draft of ultra-Orthodox men.

Against this backdrop, Netanyahu is trying to square the circle in order to find a compromise. Conscription of ultra-Orthodox Jews, yes, but no fixed quotas and reduced service times. Financial sanctions for religious schools, yes, but no punishments for individuals who refuse military service.

Defense Minister Gallant, from Netanyahu’s Likud party, has already made it clear that he cannot support such watered-down legislation. This has been the subject of anti-government protests for months. If the ultra-Orthodox are given special treatment again, the streets will explode.