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The key people in Israel's government

3 min

More than three months into the war in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being challenged by members of his own war cabinet about strategy, pressured by Washington over post-war Gaza plans and hemmed in by his far-right ministers.

Benny Gantz © Mena Today 

More than three months into the war in Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is being challenged by members of his own war cabinet about strategy, pressured by Washington over post-war Gaza plans and hemmed in by his far-right ministers.

He is also facing mounting demands by the families of hostages still held in Gaza.

Below are details on key players in government.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU

The longest-serving Israeli leader, Netanyahu built his reputation as a security hawk on the back of his time as a junior officer in an elite special forces unit that carried out some of the country's most daring operations.

But he has faced mounting fury at the failures that allowed the Oct. 7 attack to take place.

In his sixth term as prime minister, Netanyahu, 74, heads one of Israel's most right-wing coalitions. He is one of three who has a vote on the Gaza war strategy in the war cabinet.

DEFENCE MINISTER YOAV GALLANT

A member of Netanyahu's conservative Likud party, Gallant, 65, began military service as a navy frogman and had been slated to become armed forces chief in 2011, but stepped aside over allegations that he carried out building work on his home without a permit.

Gallant, 65, said in a statement to mark 100 days of the war that only military pressure would achieve the twin aims of destroying Hamas and freeing the hostages, in line with Netanyahu. But he also called for the cabinet to set diplomatic goals and discuss plans for post-war Gaza.

Gallant also has a vote in the war cabinet. He has worn only black since the fighting erupted and said he feels as if the hostages are his own children.

MINISTER BENNY GANTZ

Former military chief and defence minister Benny Gantz and members of his centrist party agreed to join Netanyahu's coalition after the Hamas attack.

The 64-year-old, Netanyahu's main political rival in opinion polls, is the third member of the war cabinet to have a vote.

STRATEGIC AFFAIRS MINISTER RON DERMER

A former ambassador to Washington, Dermer was key to forging Israeli relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020 in a diplomatic drive by the Republican administration of then-U.S. President Donald Trump. He is a member of the war cabinet.

MINISTER AND FORMER MILITARY CHIEF GADI EISENKOT

Eisenkot, 63, who lost a son and a nephew to Gaza fighting in December, went public with his criticism of the war's strategy in a Jan. 19 TV interview, saying a deal was needed to free remaining hostages.

Also a war cabinet member, he said the fate of the hostages should take priority over other aims, even if that meant missing out on an opportunity to take out the political leader of Hamas.

FINANCE MINISTER BEZALEL SMOTRICH

A West Bank settler who heads the hardline Religious Zionism party, Smotrich leads the Treasury under a rotation deal with Aryeh Deri from the religious Shas Party.

Smotrich, 43, opposes Palestinian statehood.

His cabinet duties include a role within the defence ministry overseeing West Bank settlements, which he wants to see expanded and, eventually, annexed by Israel.

He responded to reports of a possible truce with Hamas as saying that it would imperil the Israeli offensive.

NATIONAL SECURITY MINISTER ITAMAR BEN-GVIR

A West Bank settler who heads the far-right Jewish Power party, Ben-Gvir is the minister in charge of police.

The 47-year-old opposes Palestinian statehood and has advocated the dismantling of the interim Palestinian Authority government set up in the 1990s.

In 2007, he was convicted of incitement against Arabs and support for terrorism. He is now a lawyer. He responded to reports of a truce as saying: "In favour of a return of a hostages, against a bad deal."

FOREIGN MINISTER ISRAEL KATZ

Katz, 68, became foreign minister under a rotation deal with Eli Cohen, 51, who became energy minister. Both men are members of Netanyahu's conservative Likud party.

SHAS PARTY LEADER ARYEH DERI

Deri, 64, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi, is the veteran leader of Shas, which draws support from religious Jews of Middle Eastern descent. Barred from cabinet positions following legal challenges over his past convictions for financial misconduct, he has served as informal adviser to Netanyahu and other top decision makers.

Shas, along with another ultra-Orthodox party in the coalition, United Torah Judaism, has long raised concerns among secular liberals by demanding welfare benefits and military draft exemptions for its constituents.

Writing by Dan Williams and Kate Holton

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