The announcement of the formation of a team to investigate the surprise Hamas attack on October 7 deepened differences and divisions within the Israeli government, amid expectations that it will affect the course of the war in Gaza in the future, and cohesion regarding the war government that was formed in the wake of the military operations waged by the Israeli army against Hamas, aiming to eliminate its political and military capabilities.
The meeting of senior Israeli government ministers, which was aimed at discussing planning to run the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the war, ended on Friday evening in a chaotic manner following a sharp disagreement between ministers and army commanders, over the timing of the investigation, and the inclusion of a former defense minister to head it.
As the war in Gaza enters its fourth consecutive month, a series of disagreements continue between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet ministers, as well as with army commanders, including Defense Minister Yoav Galant and Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi, who was subjected to “stormy criticism” from a number of ministers during their last meeting.
Observers and analysts believe in statements to Sky News Arabia that the current investigation will have subsequent repercussions that may include the collapse of the emergency government, and will also have repercussions on the course of military operations launched by the army, given the increasing gap and mistrust between the political and military levels.
What is happening in Israel?
Netanyahu’s allies have criticized Israel’s military leadership for moving forward with an investigation into the causes of the Hamas attack, exposing tensions over failures ahead of Oct. 7.
While all of Israel’s top security officials publicly apologized for unacceptable failures before Oct. 7, Netanyahu has long resisted acknowledging responsibility, saying only that there would be time to respond to “give responses to what happened.”
Netanyahu’s political stance is a prelude to a campaign to blame only the country’s military and intelligence chiefs, without compromising his government future.
IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari insisted that an “operational investigation ” into the October 7 failures was necessary to fight the army in Gaza, as well as prepare itself for other fronts, stressing that the investigation is not a substitute for any external investigations.
The comments came against the backdrop of a security cabinet meeting that ended in rage between ministers and the IDF chief of staff, with right-wing lawmakers denouncing his plans to investigate mistakes linked to the Hamas attacks.
Ministers have also expressed anger over the annexation of former Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz over his involvement in the 2005 Gaza withdrawal, and some on the far right hope to roll back the disengagement from the Strip following the war against Hamas, an idea widely considered unsuccessful.
Reports in Hebrew media, citing unnamed participants in Thursday night’s stormy cabinet meeting, said Netanyahu broke up the meeting three hours later with shouting that erupted when some ministers came to Halevi’s defense, while not intervening to stop the chief of staff’s attack.
Some Defense Ministry officials left early, protesting their treatment within the cabinet.
The row lasted into Friday, with war council member Benny Gantz warning Netanyahu against choosing between unity or politics, and the ruling Likud party responded to Gantz, defending the behavior of right-wing ministers.
The Times of Israel, citing unnamed ministers, said the emergency coalition would not last long in its current state and that Netanyahu and his allies were trying to blame senior security officials for the Oct. 7 attack.
IDF officials told Channel 12: “We are fighting in Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank, and there are people in the cabinet fighting us.”
Netanyahu insists that such an investigation can only take place after the war is over, with critics claiming he is buying more time to stay in office.
Defense Minister Yoav Galant defected from his party and issued a statement late Friday offering support for Halevy, while far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir fought after Gantz’s statement, accusing him of trying to silence the debate and of pressing to allow the Palestinian Authority to take control of Gaza after the war.
According to Ynet, Halevy told defense officials that a “professional investigation would be conducted by an external observer to examine the military’s conduct in the war to improve its future performance,” and reiterated that the team would not investigate any aspect of Israel’s response at the national and political level.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid, who refused to join the unity government, also attacked their behavior at the cabinet meeting, calling it “a descent to unprecedented depths.”
The row has brought long-standing tensions between the military and some members of the far-right coalition over Israeli policies toward the Palestinians to the surface, exposing cracks in the largely united front that the government has presented since the war erupted three months ago.
Consequences of the crisis
French analyst specializing in government relations and international affairs, Frank Farnel, told Sky News Arabia that the political and security conflicts faced by the Israeli government highlighted the complexities involved in aligning agendas, especially when dealing with representatives of the extreme right.
According to Farnel, these differences emerged during deliberations on the future of the Gaza Strip, and were temporarily halted after criticism from some right-wing ministers over the decision of the IDF chief of staff to begin an investigation into the security breaches that emerged on October 7.
“This dispute has exposed long-standing tensions between the military and some members of the far-right coalition regarding Israeli policies related to the Palestinians,” he said, noting that the escalation of the dispute coincides with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the region to discuss the future course of the war.
“Although the timing of these conflicts may not be ideal for the Israeli interior, it is crucial that the military feel fully supported during this arduous conflict,” the French analyst explained.
For his part, academic and analyst specializing in Israeli affairs Ahmed Fouad Anwar, in statements to the site “Sky News Arabia”, that the division between the components of Israeli society and within the war government has reached an unprecedented level in the history of Israel, it is no longer limited to the left and the right, but also between the Israeli right itself, as extended to the split between the military and politicians within the government, as the military believes that politicians are leading a campaign that will disrupt and distort the Israeli army after they set fire to The West Bank with their actions and provocations to the Palestinians.
Anwar said that “the most dangerous thing about this division is that the leaks constantly come out of the government sessions, as each side seeks to put its point of view and prove its victory over the other side, while everyone escapes responsibility in the failure on October 7, whether Netanyahu shirks his responsibility, or the army’s attempt to deny that it has not reached its goals of eliminating Hamas or returning hostages.”
He stressed that this division will have serious consequences in the coming period, in the refusal of each party “at the political and military level” to assume its current responsibility for what happened, as some consider that there was a warning regarding the Hamas attack, but the political level did not care about it, while the political level says that the army was not ready to confront the attack.
Scott Morgan, an American national security researcher, told Sky News Arabia that the Hamas attack really needs an in-depth investigation to find out the causes and shortcomings that led to it, but it is seen that this investigation will affect Israeli policy.
“This is the right time to investigate, especially since the Israeli Supreme Court has struck down the judicial reform bill, as this was one of the key points that allowed Prime Minister Netanyahu to be elected in the first place, this shows that Netanyahu is in a vulnerable position now, and it is necessary to address this issue in order for this ministry to continue to rule,” Morgan said.
Regarding the right-wing ministers’ criticism of the investigation, the far-right remembers Mofaz as one of the main actors in the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, so in their view he is one of the people ultimately responsible for the horrific attacks..