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Israel has no plan for Gaza after Hamas rule, defense chief says: NPR

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israeli army, stands at the opening of a tunnel near the border with Israel, December 15, 2023, in the northern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said it was the largest tunnel ever discovered in Gaza.

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Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, spokesperson for the Israeli army, stands at the opening of a tunnel near the border with Israel, December 15, 2023, in the northern Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said it was the largest tunnel ever discovered in Gaza.

Amir Lévy/Getty Images

TEL AVIV, Israel — Amid growing frustration in Israel over the direction the war has been heading for eight months, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday accused Israeli leaders of ignoring his requests to discuss a replacement of the Hamas regime in Gaza.

“Since October, I have raised this issue regularly in Cabinet and have received no response,” Gallant said.

His speech, broadcast live, is the harshest rebuke ever to Israel’s war strategy in Gaza from the three-man war cabinet. This has sparked a political storm that could threaten the power of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

How the controversy started

The debate over the “day after” in Gaza erupted when Israeli army spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari was asked at a press conference on Tuesday whether Israeli troops had were sent to retake areas of Gaza from which they had withdrawn because there was no government alternative to Hamas. . Hagari said replacing Hamas would put pressure on the militant group, but that it was a matter that concerned Israel’s political leaders.

Netanyahu then declared in a video released by his office Wednesday said talk of a “day after” strategy is meaningless until Hamas is defeated, and said some of Israel’s efforts to replace Hamas were secret.

Gallant appeared to refute Netanyahu’s claims, saying no effort was being made to establish an alternative to Hamas in Gaza. He called on Netanyahu to declare that Israel would not establish civilian or military rule in Gaza in the long term.

“The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with the takeover of Gaza by Palestinian entities, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governmental alternative to Hamas rule,” Gallant said. said in his live speech. “Unfortunately, this plan has not been brought up for discussion and, worse, no alternative discussion has been raised in its place.”

In response, several far-right members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition called for the defense minister to be replaced.

Gallant, a member of Netanyahu’s hawkish Likud party, challenged Netanyahu in March last year when he called on him to abandon plans to weaken the powers of Israel’s justice system. He said widespread opposition to the judicial overhaul among the public and in the military ranks was eroding Israel’s security. Netanyahu fired Gallant, sparking massive street protests that led Netanyahu to reinstate him.

Nadav Eyal, senior editor of the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, says Netanyahu is stuck with Gallant for now, even though he’s not happy with him. “Netanyahu does not want this defense minister in his government,” Eyal said. “He is simply too afraid to fire him now because he knows that in wartime, doing such a thing will carry implications that cannot be predicted, including the very real possibility of another night drama in the streets of Israel.”

Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel took place approximately six months after Gallant’s reinstatement. It was the deadliest day in Israel’s history, sparking the country’s ongoing offensive in Gaza, the deadliest war in Gaza’s history.

Israeli settlers at a barbecue as smoke rises from the Gaza Strip during Israel’s Independence Day, May 14.

Ilia Yefimovich/alliance photo via Getty Images


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Israeli settlers at a barbecue as smoke rises from the Gaza Strip during Israel’s Independence Day, May 14.

Ilia Yefimovich/alliance photo via Getty Images

Israel’s far-right dream: Gaza settlements

While Netanyahu failed to articulate a clear plan to replace Hamas rule, several thousand Israeli settlers and their supporters – including senior ministers in Netanyahu’s government – ​​rallied Tuesday for Israel to build settlements Jews on the ruins of the destroyed towns of Gaza and encourages Palestinians to emigrate. .

The rally took place near the Gaza border, in the town of Sderot, as large columns of smoke rose across the Gaza border.

It took place on Israel’s 76th Independence Day, which Palestinians commemorate each year as the Nakba, or catastrophe, in which many Palestinians were dispossessed from their homes and exiled to the founding war of Israel. Palestinians gathered this week in commemoration in parts of Israel and the occupied West Bank.

In a speech at the pro-settlement rally, far-right MK Zvi Sukkot celebrated the immense destruction wrought by the Israeli military in Gaza during the seven-month war, saying Israel’s enemies must abandon their lands following the attack on the country.

Far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir also addressed the protesters.

“Being a free people in our country,” Ben Gvir told an enthusiastic crowd, referring to the Israeli national anthem, “is also saying to Biden: ‘Mr. President, this is ours. We are going home us in Gaza.’ “

Israel had settlements in Gaza. The government uprooted its soldiers and settlers from the territory in 2005. Two years later, the Palestinian militant group Hamas took control of the enclave.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya, home to the Israeli Defense Ministry, in Tel Aviv, December 17, 2023.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a cabinet meeting at the Kirya, home to the Israeli Defense Ministry, in Tel Aviv, December 17, 2023.

Menahem Kahana/AP

Netanyahu’s political connection

Netanyahu has said Israel has no plans to reoccupy Gaza in the long term or resettle it, but he has also resisted U.S. calls for Gaza to be governed by a revitalized Palestinian Authority, a more moderate Palestinian leadership. .

“In various Cabinet meetings and consultations, Netanyahu has talked about some kind of autonomy for the Palestinians that would involve Arab countries such as (the United Arab Emirates) and Egypt, with some kind of international coordination,” said Eyal. the writer. “He was very determined to make sure that this would not include the Palestinian Authority or Fatah, which is the most dominant party within the Palestinian Authority and which is, of course, a competitor to Hamas in the Palestinian society, but he has not presented any plan for that.

Eyal Hulata, who served as Israel’s national security adviser under Netanyahu’s predecessor, Naftali Bennett, and is now a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says: “No one is talking about a two-state solution. We are speaking from a perspective of Palestinian self-government, which has the support of the vast majority of Israelis. And Netanyahu, for his own political reasons, is not capable of saying that. »

Billboards from the New Gaza group, describing their mission to colonize Gaza City, displayed during the pro-settlement rally.

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Billboards from the New Gaza group, describing their mission to colonize Gaza City, displayed during the pro-settlement rally.

Daniel Estrin/NPR

At the rally, families took to the stage, holding signs pledging their intention to settle in Gaza’s towns. At a gaming table, an organization called New Gaza presented a map of Gaza City neighborhoods with new Hebrew names.

“It’s either us or them. We have to clean up Gaza,” said Chanie Luz, an Israeli from Queens, New York. “There is plenty of room in the world for the people of Gaza. They can be absorbed into any country in the world. They cannot stay here. We cannot live with them. They want to kill us .

When asked if she was ready to move to Gaza, she replied: “I would love to build a holiday village on the Gaza coast. I love the sea. “

Jackie Northam, Alon Avital and Itay Stern contributed to this report from Tel Aviv.

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