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BREAKING: ‘In the name of God, go’: Israel’s ex-prime minister Ehud Barak calls for an immediate election to end the war in Gaza as critics claim time is running out for Benjamin Netanyahu

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Israel‘s ex-prime minister Ehud Barak has called for an immediate election to end the war in Gaza as critics claim time is running out for Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel will find itself ‘sinking in the Gaza mud for years to come’ if Mr Netanyahu keeps hold of power Mr Barak, also the nation’s most highly decorated soldier, told The Telegraph.

In a blistering interview, Mr Barak, 81, urged Mr Netanyahu to resign, ramping up the pressure for him to call an election.

He said time was running out for Israel to remove itself from a conflict that has already passed the 100-day mark.

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Recalling Leo Amery’s take down of Neville Chamberlain in 1940, Mr Barak said of his rival: ‘In the name of God, go.’

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Defence Minister Ehud Barak gesture and smile as Brig. Gen. Eyal Zamir (not pictured) is appointed the new military secretary, on November 26, 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel

Black smoke rises over residential areas following an Israeli attacks on Deir al-Balah, Gaza on January 22, 2024

Protestors hold up portraits during a rally organised by family and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, to demand their release, on January 22, 2024, near the residence of the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem

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Mr Barak argues that Mr Netanyahu is pursuing a bloody, vengeful war with no strategic endgame.

He believes that the 74-year-old prime minister is holding on to power when he should have stood down in the wake of the intelligence and military failures that triggered the October 7 attacks.

‘Israel cannot announce victory without destroying the military and the governing capabilities of Hamas. But for Hamas to win it just needs to survive. And even if Israel kills Sinwar [Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader], they will still survive,’ Mr Barak said.

‘The only way [out of the conflict] is to have an election straight away.’

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He claims Mr Netanyahu is being kept afloat by far-Right ministers who he derisively labels the ‘Proud Boys’, referring to the Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol in 2021.

He blames the prime minister for ignoring the ‘explicit demand coming from the inner Cabinet’ to talk through an exit plan and for not considering ‘everything that should have happened three months ago’ in the wake of the terrorist attack on southern Israel.

He claims that if Hamas continues to cast aside an exit plan ‘we will find ourselves sinking into the Gazan mud for years to come’.

Mr Barak said there have been leaders, such as the nation’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who came to power and attempted to stay there by putting Israel’s best interests first.

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He said that Mr Netanyahu ‘does it for a more personal kind of devotion to himself.’

With Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the religious Zionist Party serving as minister of finance, and Itamar Ben-Gvir, leader of extremist party Otzma Yehudi as minister of national security, Mr Barak compares them to the Proud Boys, noting: ‘Imagine if in the US one of them had become secretary to the treasury and the other put in charge of homeland security. It is crazy but in Israel that is what happened and Netanyahu is dependent upon them. He is hostage to them.’

Mr Barak believes the priority should have been releasing the 240 hostages, 105 of whom were set free during a temporary ceasefire, arguing that if it means halting the war for ’10, 20 or 30 days’ then that shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Mr Barak believes Israel is ‘losing legitimacy’ and is concerned for the next generation. ‘Statesmanship is missing. There is a vacuum in the overall running of the war,’ he said.

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‘We need to do something about it because time is running out. There are two clocks ticking at a different pace. The clock of legitimacy is ticking very fast; the clock of achieving the objective is ticking very slow. It is the basic role of the senior command to make sure these two clocks become synchronised.’

This photograph taken on January 22, 2024 from Rafah, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas

Image depicts graphic content) Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment following Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza on January 22, 2024

Image depicts graphic content) Injured Palestinians, including children, are brought to Nasser Hospital to receive medical treatment following Israeli attacks in Khan Yunis, Gaza on January 22, 2024

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) sits next to then Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (R) during a press conference at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem, Israel, 21 November 2012

Netanyahu, whose popularity has plummeted since October 7, faces pressure from the US to shift to more precise military operations and do more to facilitate humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The US is also calling for a reformed Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza after the war and for negotiations to start on a two-state solution.

The authority currently governs pockets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and was ejected from Gaza in 2007 when Hamas took power.

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Netanyahu has rejected both the entry of the Palestinian Authority and the creation of a Palestinian state.

His governing coalition is beholden to far-right parties that want to step up the offensive, encourage the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza and reestablish Jewish settlements there.

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, European Union foreign ministers added their voices to the calls for a Palestinian state, saying it was the only way to achieve peace.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell insisted the immediate ‘priority is to provide support to the people’ facing a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

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He insisted that the urgency of the situation on the ground ‘should not prevent work in the long-run and medium term’ towards a conference to work towards an enduring peace.

Mr Borrell said the Israeli minister ‘could have made better use of his time’ after he showed videos about a potential artificial port island off Gaza and a transport corridor to India to his European counterparts.

‘Which are the other solutions they have in mind?’ Mr Borrell said of Israel. ‘To make all the Palestinians leave? To kill them off?’

The EU has struggled for a united stance on the conflict in Gaza as staunch backers of Israel such as Germany have rejected demands for an immediate ceasefire made by the likes of Spain and Ireland.

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But there is overall backing in the bloc for a two-state solution.

‘The two-state solution is the only solution, and even those who don’t want to know about it have not yet come up with any other alternative,’ said German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock.

Dozens of family members of hostages held by Hamas stormed a committee meeting in Israel’s parliament Monday, demanding a deal to win their loved ones’ release, as European foreign ministers joined growing international calls for Israel to negotiate on the creation of a Palestinian state after the war.

European High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, talks to the press after the European Foreign Ministers Council meeting in Brussels, Belgium, 22 January 2024

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A woman sits in front of a tent as displaced Palestinians, including children, try to survive under difficult conditions in the makeshift tents they set up in the empty area near Egyptian border in Rafah, Gaza on January 22, 2024

Displaced Palestinians, including children, try to survive under difficult conditions in the makeshift tents they set up in the empty area near Egyptian border in Rafah, Gaza on January 22, 2024

A general view of a tent camp housing displaced Palestinians, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, January 22, 2024

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Defence Minister Ehud Barak (not pictured), on November 21, 2012 in Jerusalem, Israel

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They held up signs and yelled: ‘You won’t sit here while they are dying there!’

‘These are our children!’ they shouted. Some had to be physically restrained, and at least one person was escorted out.

The developments showed the increasing pressure on Mr Netanyahu, who has dug in on both fronts.

He has insisted to the Israeli public that pursuing the devastating offensive in Gaza is the only way to bring the hostages home. At the same time, he has rejected the United States’ vision for a postwar resolution, saying he will never allow a Palestinian state.

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The dispute over Gaza’s future pits Israel against its top ally and much of the international community. It also poses a major obstacle to plans for postwar governance or reconstruction of the coastal territory, large parts of which have been left unlivable by Israeli bombardment.

As fears grow that Israel’s war in Gaza will spark a wider regional conflict, the U.S. and British militaries bombed eight locations in Yemen used by the Houthi rebels.

It’s the eighth time the US has bombed Houthi sites since January 12, US officials said late on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a military operation.

The Iranian-backed Houthis have attacked shipping in the region’s waterways, saying they aim to end the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

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In southern Gaza, Israeli strikes and shelling intensified in and around the city of Khan Younis, sending Palestinian families fleeing south in pickup trucks and donkey carts loaded with possessions.

In the city, which has been a battle zone for weeks, people dug graves for the dead inside the yard of Al-Nasser Hospital as staff struggled to deal with dozens of newly killed and wounded, including children.

Health care workers said strikes hit at least four schools sheltering displaced people on the city’s western edges, including two inside a coastal strip that Israel had declared a safe zone for people fleeing.

Gaza’s internet and phone networks collapsed again Monday for the 10th time during the war.

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The repeated blackouts severely hamper distribution of aid that’s essential for the survival of the territory’s population of 2.3 million, U.N. officials said. The loss of service also prevents Palestinians from communicating with each other and the outside world.

Mr Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until ‘complete victory’ over Hamas and to return all remaining hostages after the October 7 rampage in southern Israel that triggered the war.

Yemen’s Houthi followers lift their rifles and shout slogans as they attend a tribal rally and parade held against the United States-led aerial attacks launched on sites in Yemen, and solidarity with Palestinians, on January 22, 2024

Yemen’s Houthi followers rally and parade against the United States-led aerial attacks launched on sites in Yemen, and solidarity with Palestinians, on January 22, 2024, near Sana’a, Yemen

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In that attack, some 1,200 people were killed and Hamas and other militants abducted around 250 people.

Israelis are increasingly divided on the question of whether it’s possible to do either.

Around 100 hostages were freed under a weeklong cease-fire deal in November in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Around 130 remain captive, but a number have since been confirmed dead. Hamas has said it will free more captives only in exchange for an end to the war and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

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Netanyahu has ruled out such an agreement, but anger is rising among hostages’ families.

Relatives and other protesters set up a tent camp outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem, vowing to remain until a deal is reached.

Some 85 per cent of the Gaza population has been driven from their homes by the war. U.N. officials say 1 in 4 people in Gaza is starving as the fighting and Israeli restrictions hinder the delivery of humanitarian aid. Only 15 bakeries are working across the Gaza Strip, all of them in either Rafah or the central town of Deir al-Balah, the U.N. said.

The Israeli military says it has killed around 9,000 terrorists in its offensive, without providing evidence, and blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because it operates in dense residential areas.

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The war has also stoked tensions across the region, with Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen attacking Israeli and U.S. targets.

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