War in the Middle East: Israel: Violent controversy over the future of Gaza

Who should take control of the Gaza Strip after the war? What role should Israel play in the future? These questions are causing open dispute within the Israeli government leadership.

A heated controversy has broken out within the Israeli government over Gaza’s political future. Defense Minister Joav Galant sharply criticized Israel’s indecision over who should rule in Gaza after the war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously said it was pointless to talk about the future administration of the Gaza Strip before a victory over the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas.

Defense Minister rejects Israeli military rule

Gallant told journalists in Tel Aviv that a political alternative to Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip must be created. Without such an alternative, only two negative options remained: continued Hamas rule or Israeli military rule.

“The ‘day after Hamas’ can only be achieved if Palestinian representatives take control in Gaza, accompanied by international actors who create a governing alternative to Hamas rule,” Galant said.

Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip is already producing results and Hamas is already very decimated militarily. “But as long as Hamas maintains control over civilian life in Gaza, it can rebuild and strengthen itself, forcing the Israeli army to come back and fight in areas where it has already been deployed,” Galant said.

The defense minister reiterated that he would not agree to permanent Israeli military rule in the Gaza Strip. He called on Netanyahu to “make a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian and military rule in the Gaza Strip.”

Netanyahu: Without defeating Hamas, talking is pointless

Netanyahu had previously said in a video message that such a debate was premature. “The destruction of Hamas is a necessary step to ensure that there is no one in Gaza who can threaten us ‘the day after,'” he said.

Netanyahu said he had already authorized Israeli security officials about 100 days ago to allow local Gaza officials not identified with Hamas to help organize food distribution. “This attempt was not successful because Hamas threatened them and even harmed some of them to deter others,” Netanyahu said.

“Until it is clear that Hamas no longer rules militarily in the Gaza Strip, no other representative will be willing to take over the civil administration in Gaza – out of fear for his safety,” the head of government continued. “Therefore, talk of ‘the day after’ – while Hamas is still in control – is just empty talk.” At the same time, Netanyahu said there had been efforts behind the scenes for several months “to find a solution to this complex problem.”

Hamas seized sole control of Gaza in 2007

After numerous attacks on Israeli soldiers and settlers during the second Palestinian uprising, the Intifada, Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and evacuated more than 20 Israeli settlements there. Hamas won parliamentary elections in 2006 against President Mahmoud Abbas’s more moderate Fatah. A year later, Hamas violently seized sole control of the Gaza Strip. Since Hamas came to power, there have been de facto two separate Palestinian governments – one in Gaza and one in Ramallah. Since then there have been several bloody wars between Israel and Hamas.

USA calls for “concrete plan” for the future of Gaza

The USA wants the Palestinian Authority, which rules in the West Bank, to take back control in the Gaza Strip – and thus also promote a two-state solution as a comprehensive approach to bringing peace to the Middle East. Israel rejects the plans. After Galant’s comments, Netanyahu reiterated that he was “not ready to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Kiev on Wednesday that the US government expects Israel to actively participate in developing a “clear and concrete plan” for the future of the Gaza Strip.

The United States has been working intensively on this with Arab partners and others for months, but it is “imperative” that Israel also do this work and focus on what that future might look like after the end of Israel’s military operation against Hamas. The US government does not support an Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and will not do so in the future, Blinken said. But they are certainly not in favor of control by the Islamist Hamas, as in previous years. There should be no anarchy and no vacuum that would “probably be filled by chaos,” he warned.

Right-wing extremist Israelis dream of repopulating Gaza

Ministers from the right-wing national and right-wing extremist parties in Netanyahu’s coalition reiterated their call for the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. “We have to return to Gaza now,” said Police Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, according to media reports. “We are returning home to the holy land. And secondly, we must encourage voluntary emigration of the residents of Gaza.”

Parts of the Israeli right are pursuing the dream of “Greater Israel,” which refers to an Israeli state including the Palestinian territories – i.e. the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich accused Galant on Wednesday of “declaring his support for the establishment of a Palestinian terrorist state as a reward for terror and Hamas for the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”


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