cabinet criticism

Gallant demands Netanyahu formulate day-after plan for Gaza

Gallant: PM's failure to act 'would erode our military achievements, lessen the pressure on Hamas and sabotage the chances of achieving a framework for the release of hostages'

Elad Malka

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must commit to immediately seek an alternative to Hamas governance of the Gaza Strip without Israeli civilian control, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday.

“Hamas no longer functions as a military organization,” Gallant said in a statement. “Most of its battalions have been dismantled. … However, as long as Hamas retains control over civilian life in Gaza, it may rebuild and strengthen [itself], thus requiring the IDF to return and fight in areas where it has already operated.” 

Gallant’s remarks come as the U.S. continues to raise concerns about Israel’s lack of a “day-after” plan, with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan saying on Monday that “military pressure is necessary but not sufficient to fully defeat Hamas. … So we were talking to Israel about how to connect their military operations to a clear strategic endgame … a better alternative future for Gaza and for the Palestinian people.”

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi also reportedly criticized Netanyahu for the lack of a day-after strategy for Gaza, saying, according to Israel’s Channel 13, that “as long as there’s no diplomatic process to develop a governing body in the Strip that isn’t Hamas, we’ll have to launch campaigns again and again in other places to dismantle Hamas’s infrastructure. It will be a Sisyphean task.”

Gallant similarly said that “the key” to dismantling Hamas “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,” Gallant stated.

Gallant said the defense establishment has been saying since October that “it will be necessary to destroy Hamas battalions while simultaneously working to establish a local, non-hostile Palestinian governing alternative.”

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the [security] cabinet and have received no response,” he added.

Gallant hinted that he backed a plan that would see the Palestinian Authority take over Gaza, stating that the alternative government must be led by “Palestinian entities…accompanied by international actors.”

“Indecision is in essence a decision,” he warned. “This leads to a dangerous course, which promotes the idea of Israeli military and civilian governance in Gaza…[which] would become the main security and military effort of the State of Israel over the coming years, at the expense of other areas.”

“I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza,” Gallant reiterated, referring to an arrangement similar to that in the West Bank.

Gallant called on Netanyahu to publicly pledge that Israel will not retain military control of Gaza, “even with the possibility of personal or political costs.”

Netanyahu implied in a video response that Gallant was making “excuses” for not completing the task of eliminating Hamas.

“I am not willing to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan,” Netanyahu said, referring to the dominant political faction in the Palestinian Authority. “Therefore, the first condition for replacing Hamas with another factor is to destroy Hamas – and to do it without excuses.”

Netanyahu said that the IDF is still fighting to destroy Hamas, and “as long as Hamas remains intact, no other factor will come in to manage Gaza, certainly not the PA…[which] supports terror, educates terror and funds terror.”

The right-wing ministers in the coalition called for Gallant’s ouster. 

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir accused Gallant of seeing “no difference if Gaza is governed by IDF soldiers or Hamas. That is the meaning of the conception of a defense minister who failed on Oct. 7 and continues to fail today. Such a defense minister must be replaced in order to achieve the war’s aims.”

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich called on Netanyahu to propose a cabinet decision to officially reject Palestinian Authority control of Gaza. Smotrich said “Gallant is hiding behind amorphous statements about a ‘third party’ that isn’t Hamas and isn’t Israel in order to hide the truth, but the truth is there is no such factor.”

Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi, who like Gallant is a Likud minister, said, “We can agree on one thing — as long as he is defense minister, military control is certainly a bad option. We can fix that.”

Gallant’s speech echoed his remarks from March 2023, in which he called on the government to set aside its judicial reform plan because threats by the policy’s opponents to dodge IDF reserve duty endangered Israel’s security. Netanyahu announced that he was dismissing Gallant soon after, but reversed the decision weeks later.

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.