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World News

Israeli defense chief challenges Netanyahu on Gaza

STORY: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was publicly challenged on Wednesday (May 15) by his own defense chief over his post-war plans for Gaza – or lack thereof.

In a televised statement, the Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant stressed the need to lay the foundations for an alternative Palestinian regime while defeating Hamas.

He said he had been pressing the issue since conflict erupted in October following Hamas’ shock attack – but received no response from the Israeli cabinet.

“Unfortunately, this issue has not been raised for debate and, even worse, no alternative has been discussed to replace it. Indecision is in essence a decision. This leads to a dangerous path, which promotes the idea of Israeli military and civilian governance in Gaza is a negative and dangerous option for the State of Israel on a strategic, military and security level.

His comments mark the most vocal dissent from Israel’s highest echelons against Netanyahu in the Gaza war.

In a response that did not explicitly name Gallant, Netanyahu suggested that the retired admiral was looking for “excuses” for not yet destroying Hamas in a conflict now in its eighth month.

But the conservative prime minister quickly found himself overwhelmed within his own war cabinet.

Centrist ex-general Benny Gantz, the only voting cabinet member other than Netanyahu and Gallant, said the defense minister had told “the truth.”

Gallant’s criticism of Gaza echoes that of Israel’s biggest ally, the United States.

Washington has tried to give a role to the Palestinian Authority, supported by the international community, and which exercises limited governance in the occupied West Bank.

But Netanyahu refused, calling the Palestinian Authority a hostile entity.

On Wednesday, he reiterated that position in a video statement less than an hour after Gallant’s remarks.

Affirming that Hamas must first be eliminated before any move to create an alternative government in Gaza, and demanding that this goal be pursued “without excuses.”

Netanyahu said Israel would retain overall security control over post-war Gaza for the foreseeable future.

Although he did not go so far as to describe it as an occupation – a status Washington does not want to see emerge.


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