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Israel defense chief says he would oppose ‘Israeli military rule’ in Gaza

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Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to publicly rule out Israeli governance over Gaza and to lay out his post-war plans, warning that he opposes Israeli rule in the Palestinian enclave.

“The ‘day after Hamas,’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’ rule,” Gallant said during a news conference at the Kirya, Israel’s military headquarters Wednesday.

“⁠I call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control over the Gaza Strip, that Israel will not establish military governance in the Gaza Strip, and that a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be raised immediately,” he added.

Gallant’s remarks come as serious questions about Israel’s long-term strategy in Gaza are being raised both inside and outside of Israel after the Israeli military sent troops back into areas of northern Gaza it had withdrawn from months ago to battle Hamas militants who had returned amid a power vacuum.

Israeli military officials have quietly warned that the lack of a long-term strategy for post-war governance will result in this pattern repeating throughout Gaza. And top US officials are doing so publicly, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning Wednesday that Israel must “focus on what the future can and must be” to avoid “anarchy and a vacuum that’s likely to be filled by chaos.”

Gallant has previously said he opposes Israeli control over post-war Gaza, but his remarks Wednesday were his most direct on the topic as he warned of the consequences of a long-term Israeli military presence in Gaza and called out Netanyahu directly.

“I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza. Israel must not establish civilian rule in Gaza,” he said, warning that a military occupation of the Palestinian territory would take a heavy toll in “bloodshed and victims, as well as a heavy economic price,” he warned.

Netanyahu appeared to respond to Gallant’s remarks later on Wednesday, saying in a video statement posted to social media that neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority would be acceptable entities to govern Gaza.

“I’m not willing to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan,” he said, referring to Fatah, the Palestinian political party that dominates the Palestinian Authority.

Netanyahu also said that a complete routing of Hamas would be his prerequisite for a new civilian government in Gaza. “As long as Hamas remains in place, no other entity would enter Gaza to administer the civilian aspects, especially not the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

Gallant’s remarks set off a political firestorm in Israel, with a number of right-wing lawmakers condemning Gallant’s statement and some even urging Netanyahu to remove him from his position. War cabinet member Minister Benny Gantz meanwhile has endorsed Gallant’s stance, saying he was “speaking the truth”.

The public clash between Gallant and Netanyahu follows repeated calls by the US for Israel to produce a clear plan for post-war Gaza.

“We do not support and will not support an Israeli occupation. We also of course, do not support Hamas governance in Gaza,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told journalists at press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday, adding, “We also can’t have anarchy and a vacuum that’s likely to be filled by chaos.”

“There needs to be a clear and concrete plan, and we look to Israel to come forward with its ideas,” he said.

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