Defence Minister Gallant voices concerns for the ‘day after’ in the Gaza Strip


What’s happened: Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant, yesterday gave a surprising statement yesterday declaring that he would not continue in office were Israel to govern the Gaza Strip after the war.

  • Gallant called instead for Palestinian control of the Strip with international assistance, and hit out at Prime Minister Netanyahu for not announcing a plan for the ‘day after’.
  • “We must dismantle Hamas’ governing capabilities in Gaza,” Gallant said. “The key to this goal is military action, and the establishment of a governing alternative in Gaza. In the absence of such an alternative, only two negative options remain: Hamas’ rule in Gaza, or Israeli military rule in Gaza.”
  • “The meaning of indecision is choosing one of the negative options – it would erode our military achievements, lessen the pressure on Hamas, and sabotage the chances of achieving a framework for the release of hostages.”
  • “Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet, and have received no response. The end of the military campaign must come together with political action.  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. This, above all, is an interest of the State of Israel.”
  • “Unfortunately, this issue was not raised for debate and worse, an alternative was not raised in its replacement… I must reiterate – I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza. Israel must not establish [its own] civilian rule in Gaza.”
  • “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.”
  • Gallant’s statement drew an instant public rebuttal from the prime minister, as well as angry denunciations from far-right cabinet colleagues, some of whom demanded that Netanyahu fire Gallant.
  • Gallant was supported by fellow War Cabinet Minister Gantz and his National Unity Party.
  • In an interview with US network CNBC yesterday, Netanyahu did address a post-Hamas Gaza Strip, saying “What do you need then to reconstruct Gaza to have a different future so Gaza doesn’t pose a threat to Israel anymore? You need to have three things. One, sustained demilitarisation and that I think, can only be done by Israel intervening when it can when it sees another terrorist resurgence. The second thing you need is a civilian administration that is not Hamas and not beholden to the destruction of Israel. And I think that could be done with the assistance of Arab countries and the international community. And the third thing you need is reconstruction. That I think can be done with the help of important players in the international community… But you’ve got to clear Gaza of Hamas… What I’d like to see is a non-Hamas civilian administration with an Israeli military responsibility, overall military responsibility.”
  • Meanwhile, in Gaza, five Israeli soldiers were killed and another seven wounded in a tragic incident of friendly fire in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya yesterday. Initial IDF investigations indicate that a tank fired two shells at a building in which the soldiers were present.
  • This follows the announcement yesterday that a first solider had died in Israel’s operation in the southern town of Rafah, Hamas’s final stronghold in the Gaza Strip.
  • The IDF continues its precision operations in Rafah, from where a projectile was fired at the Kerem Shalom crossing yesterday, landing in an open area.
  • Elsewhere in the Strip, the IDF has finished its operations in Zeitoun. The IDF said it had “eliminated dozens of terrorists in encounters and airstrikes, destroyed terrorist infrastructure and located many weapons, including dozens of AK-47s, grenades, magazines and intelligence management assets of the Hamas terrorist organisation.”
  • In the north, meanwhile, Hezbollah continued to launch multiple attacks on northern Israel yesterday, with the IDF confirming that a sensitive military facility in the Lower Galilee was hit with an explosive drone last night.
  • In response, the IDF hit back at Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including some in the north-east of the country.

Context: Gallant’s comments lay bare the divisions within the senior Israeli leadership over the future of Gaza’s post-war governance.

  • A senior US official said last night that Gallant’s statement also reflected the Biden Administration’s position.
  • The US has, for some time, called for Palestinian control of the Gaza Strip post-Hamas, and has expressed frustration with the Israeli Government for its refusal to present a clear ‘day after’ policy reflecting this. It’s own preference has been for a reformed Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume control. (For analysis of the government’s limited ‘day after’ plan, as well as more detailed proposals from Israeli experts, see BICOM’s recent research paper.)
  • Earlier in the day, US Secretary of State Blinken, speaking in Kiev, had said “we do not support and will not support an Israeli occupation. We also of course, do not support Hamas governance in Gaza … We’ve seen where that’s led all too many times for the people of Gaza and for Israel. And we also can’t have anarchy and a vacuum that’s likely to be filled by chaos.”
  • It is not only US support which depends, seemingly, on Israeli support for a Palestinian administration in Gaza. Current and putative Arab allies, like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are also said to be unwilling to assist with the reconstruction of the Strip unless it is in cooperation with a Palestinian authority.
  • Egypt, the UAE, and Morocco are said to be considering a US proposal to contribute to a peacekeeping force in Gaza aimed at ensuring that Hamas does not return in the event of its defeat. All three, however, are said to be conditioning their participation on US recognition of a Palestinian state.
  • Netanyahu has consistently ruled out replacing ‘Hamastan” with “Fatahstan” (a reference to Fatah, the PA’s dominant faction). Gallant’s remarks constitute the most direct challenge from within the government to the prime minister since October 7th, and came only hours after Netanyahu had said publicly that discussions of the day after where premature.
  • In response to Gallant, Netanyahu then said: “After the terrible massacre of October 7, I instructed to destroy Hamas. IDF fighters and the security branches are fighting for this. As long as Hamas remains in place, nobody else will enter to run Gaza’s civilian affairs. Certainly not the Palestinian Authority.”
  • Netanyahu’s long-standing principled rejection of the PA is based on three main concerns:
    • Its consistent policy of ‘pay for slay’, which sees Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons paid commensurate with the amount of Jews they have killed.
    • Incessant incitement and antisemitic content in Palestinian media and school curricula.
    • ‘Lawfare’ seeking to delegitimise Israel in international institutions, which does nothing poster peace and understanding.
  • Gallant’s frustrations, as implied by his own words, also echo those of the military establishment, which has for months been angered by the lack of a credible post-war plan. Last weekend, IDF Chief of Staff Halevi is said to have rounded on Netanyahu in a meeting on similar lines.
  • Netanyahu is thus caught between the military, along with the more sober, centrist members of the war and security cabinets, who agree with the US line that Israel should have neither a military nor civilian presence in a post-war Strip, and more hard-line right-wing elements of the government who argue not only against Palestinian governance post-war, but in favour of Israeli re-settlement of the Strip.
  • Israeli reports suggest that the timing of Gallant’s remarks was partly due to fears that these right-wing ministers were exerting pressure on Netanyahu to move for the establishment of a military government in Gaza imminently.
  • This latest episode is another illustration of the unwieldy nature of Netanyahu’s coalition, and his need to balance often wildly divergent internal opinion. Gallant is a member of Netanyahu’s own Likud party, making the criticism even more pointed.
  • This is not the first time that Netanyahu and Gallant have clashed. In March 2023, at the height of protests over the government’s judicial reform programme, Gallant was briefly fired by Netanyahu before being swiftly reinstated.
  • Hezbollah’s attack in the Lower Galilee represents the latest sign of the escalation of the conflict on Israel’s northern front. An attack on a site 35 kilometres from the Lebanese border, and on an installation which is designed to spot aerial threats from long ranges represents Hezbollah striking deeper into Israel on a sensitive site.
  • As well as this incident of long-range fire, short-range fire persists, with over 40 rockets fired at the northern Golan this morning.

Looking ahead: Conversations are expected to take place in Cairo between senior Israeli intelligence officials and Egyptian counterparts, in an effort to reduce tensions with Egypt over the Rafah Crossing and Israel’s operation in the city.

  • The IDF has sent an additional commando brigade to Rafah, in anticipation of continued or expanded operations there