Defense minister's speech

Full text: Gallant demands PM rule out Israeli military, civil control of post-Hamas Gaza

We must put ‘national priorities’ about personal and political interests, DM tells Netanyahu; Palestinian entities and international actors must establish ‘day after’ governance

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant delivers a statement to the press at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, May 15, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant delivers a statement to the press at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, May 15, 2024. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The following is the full English translation of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s televised address on May 15, 2024, as issued by his office.

Israel’s Memorial Day for the Fallen and Victims of Terror has recently come to an end. In the history of our country, it was the most difficult one yet. Thousands of families joined the circle of grief and bereavement.

As a duty to the fallen, as a duty to the next generation, and part of our moral obligation, we must guarantee the fulfillment of the words spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “They will build houses and dwell in them; they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.”

It is our duty to ensure a good, secure, and stable life for our people, in our small country, surrounded by enemies.

Our goals in the [war conducted in] Gaza have not changed.

Our moral duty was and remains to bring our girls and boys [held hostage] home.

We are faced with a complex, multi-front threat, spearheaded by Iran and its murderous policy.

The fighting continues along the northern border – the IDF has eliminated hundreds of Hezbollah terrorists and has pushed Radwan forces away from the border. Soon we will have to make a decision regarding the safe return of Israel’s northern communities to their homes – whether this will be achieved via agreement or military action.

In Judea and Samaria, [we have] thwarted hundreds of terror attacks, as a result of the great cooperation between the IDF, Israel Security Agency [Shin Bet] and the National Counter-Terrorism Unit (“Yamam”).

About a month ago, Iran conducted a massive missile attack against the State of Israel. This was thwarted as a result of the professional, determined response executed by the IDF, with the assistance of the regional alliance led by the United States.

As was true in the past, in this war too, we are assisted by the United States. Our ties with the United States are vital, strong, and steady.

There are some disagreements, yet I emphasize: in this war too, the United States was the first to stand by us, in actions, not [just] in words, and the US continues to stand by us now.

We solve our disagreements behind closed doors, not via interviews or tweets.

Despite the failure of October 7th, from the moment the war broke out, the IDF has made extraordinary achievements. It is the direct result of our fighting spirit. Our troops and their commanders are committed to their missions; they are professional and determined.

Unfortunately, as we work to achieve our goals, we have also paid the price of the painful loss of many soldiers’ lives.

The military operation is bearing results. Hamas no longer functions as a military organization – most of its battalions have been dismantled, and it has turned to terrorist warfare, conducted by individuals and small squads.

The IDF is operating in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’s remaining battalions, to locate the hostages, eliminate terrorists, and block [Hamas] smuggling routes.

However, as long as Hamas retains control over civilian life in Gaza, it may rebuild and strengthen, thus requiring the IDF to return and fight in areas where it has already operated. We must dismantle Hamas’ governing capabilities in Gaza.

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’s 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.

Already in October, on the night of [the start of] our military maneuver [into Gaza], the defense establishment presented its war plan to the Cabinet, stating 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 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’s rule.

This, above all, is an interest of the State of Israel.

Unfortunately, this issue was not raised for debate. And worse, no alternative was brought up in its place.

Indecision is, in essence, a decision. This leads to a dangerous course, which promotes the idea of Israeli military and civilian governance in Gaza.

This is a negative and dangerous option for the State of Israel — strategically, militarily, and from a security standpoint.

The State of Israel is required to face a multi-front threat with a set of resources. The IDF must face strategic challenges in arenas both near and far. We must maintain our readiness. [Should this be the decision], military rule in Gaza would become the main security and military effort of the State of Israel over the coming years, at the expense of other arenas.

The price paid would be bloodshed and victims, as well as a heavy economic price.

I must reiterate: I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza. Israel must not establish civilian rule in Gaza.

The responsibility to dismantle Hamas and to retain full freedom of operation in the Gaza Strip rests on the defense establishment and the IDF, yet it depends on the creation of a governing alternative in Gaza, which rests on the shoulders of the Israeli government and all its various bodies.

Its implementation will shape Israel’s security for decades ahead.

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.

It is our duty and responsibility to lead our country to a better place, here, right now, on our watch. 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.

Our nation is being put to a test. The people of Israel are watching and expect us to make the right decisions.

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