Gallant attacks Netanyahu's 'indecision' on Gaza, sets off political storm

gallant attacks netanyahu's 'indecision' on gaza, sets off political storm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant are both seen in the Knesset in Jerusalem.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant kicked off a political storm during a press conference on Wednesday evening, publicly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's indecision on the question of who will govern Gaza after Hamas is defeated.

The press conference was Gallant's first in months and was the sharpest criticism from a member of Israel's war cabinet since the war began on October 7. It erupted after months of tension between the two, and after reports emerged earlier this week that senior IDF officers believed that the lack of a governing alternative to Hamas has forced the IDF to return and fight in areas that had already been cleared out.

Gallant argued that "Indecision is, in essence, a decision" that would lead to one of two bad results: Continued Hamas rule or IDF control over Gaza's civilian population.

"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 said.

He added soon after, "We must make tough decisions for the future of our country, favoring national priorities above all other possible considerations, even with the possibility of personal or political costs." Gallant's implied argument was that Netanyahu was refraining from promoting a Palestinian alternative to Hamas in Gaza due to political pressure from his far-right partners in the government, who are pushing for extended Israeli control of the Strip.

gallant attacks netanyahu's 'indecision' on gaza, sets off political storm

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally during the 35th anniversary of Hamas founding, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, December 14, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a rally during the 35th anniversary of Hamas founding, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, December 14, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA)

Gallant's comments immediately set off a storm of responses from senior ministers, and Netanyahu himself was quick to respond with a video statement.

"I am not willing to replace Hamastan with Fatahstan," Netanyahu said. "As long as Hamas stands on its feet, no other body will enter to run civilian matters in Gaza, especially not the Palestinian Authority," which Netanyahu said, "supports terror, educates to terror, and funds terror."

"The first condition to prepare the ground for a new body is to destroy Hamas and to do so without excuses," the prime minister said.

Smotrich makes demands of Netanyahu

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich demanded that Netanyahu immediately bring forward a decision to bar the Palestinian Authority from entering the Gaza Strip and then "force Gallant to choose between realizing the government's policy to resigning."

"A government that I belong to will not continue the 'concept,' will not establish a Palestinian state that will endanger Israel's existence."

Justice Minister Yariv Levin said in a written statement, "The people of Israel are unwilling to be disgraced. The people of Israel are not willing to be led to a process of Oslo 2, that will lead Israel to another disaster. Will not agree to pass Gaza to control of the terror Palestinian Authority. The people of Israel know that Israel's safety will be achieved only by determination to win, and nor by relying on quiet from lowly terrorists and their different organizations."

Other ministers who conveyed criticism included National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir (Otzma Yehudit), Orit Strok (Religious Zionist Party), and Shlomo Karhi (Communications Minister).

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