Gallant said to warn ministers that military rule in Gaza would cost ‘many lives’

Hebrew media says defense minister walked out of security cabinet meeting after criticism from far-right ministers, Likud allies of PM, for his ‘day after’ war plans

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to troops in northern Israel, May 8, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant speaks to troops in northern Israel, May 8, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly to convene the war cabinet on Saturday night for a further discussion of Defense Minister Yoav Gallant’s vision for Gaza after the war, according to Hebrew media reports Friday. He reportedly said the issue was too complex and time too short for sufficient discussion at Thursday night’s meeting.

Saturday night’s meeting will also focus on the currently deadlocked efforts to negotiate a deal for the release of hostages held by Hamas, after that issue, too, was not discussed at sufficient length on Thursday, the reports said.

At a meeting of the security cabinet that followed the war cabinet session, meanwhile, several ministers castigated Gallant over his demand Wednesday that Netanyahu rule out Israeli military and civilian rule in the Palestinian enclave after the war, with Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir repeating his demand that Gallant be fired.

According to some Hebrew media reports, Gallant walked out of the security cabinet meeting at one juncture.

The Israel Hayom daily said Gallant’s plans for the “day after” in Gaza include providing weapons to local figures tied to the Palestinian Authority with international oversight. In his speech on Wednesday, Gallant said it was in Israel’s best interests for Gaza to be governed by non-Hamas “Palestinian entities,” backed by “international actors.”

The report claimed that Gallant’s plan, backed by the defense establishment, would include providing these groups with guns, which would be electronically monitored by Israel to prevent them from being used by Hamas, and would be part of an overall international effort to help govern the Strip led by Arab nations and backed by the US.

Explaining his stance during the security cabinet meeting, Gallant reportedly warned that Israeli military rule in Gaza would require the deployment of massive forces.

“We’ll pay for it with many lives, and in the end, we’ll withdraw from the territory and leave it to the Palestinians. Military rule will mean loss of life and neglecting other fronts,” he was quoted as saying.

IDF soldiers are seen operating in Gaza in this handout photo cleared for publication on May 17, 2024. (IDF)

According to a report cited by the Ynet news site, the price tag of running a military government in Gaza would be an estimated NIS 20 billion (around $5.4 billion) per year. In addition, Israel would have to shell out a yet-to-be-determined amount on rebuilding and repairing infrastructure in the enclave.

The report also stated that 400 people would be needed to staff the military government and five IDF divisions would have to remain in Gaza, requiring Israel to shrink the number of troops on the northern border and in the West Bank, as well as necessitate a significant increase in the deployment of reservists on operational duty.

At the security cabinet meeting, Ben Gvir reportedly said that he didn’t understand “how the defense minister allows himself to speak like this, when he knows the majority of the cabinet is against him on the ‘day after’ plan.”

Transportation Minister Miri Regev, a close Likud ally of Netanyahu’s, reportedly criticized Gallant for making his public statement on Wednesday, and told him his responsibility was “to convince this forum” of ministers that his was the right path ahead.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir calls for “voluntary emigration” of Palestinians from Gaza and the resettling of Gaza by Israel at a march and rally in the town of Sderot close to the Gaza border, May 14, 2024. (Courtesy Office of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir)

Gallant responded that he had a “public responsibility to explain the situation, if we’re going in a dangerous direction for Israel’s security,” before reportedly walking out.

The security cabinet meeting came after Netanyahu said earlier Thursday that he would soon speak face-to-face with Gallant. While visiting an area close to the Gaza border, Netanyahu was asked by a reporter if he still trusts Gallant and whether they can still work together.

“If you’re talking about what the defense minister said yesterday, then what I have to say to him I’ll first say one-on-one, and not here,” he responded.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with IDF soldiers in southern Israel, May 16, 2024 (Maayan Toaf / GPO)

In his televised address on Wednesday, the defense minister told Netanyahu that he must take “tough decisions” to advance non-Hamas governance of Gaza, whatever the personal or political cost, because the gains of the war are being eroded and Israel’s long-term security is at stake.

Gallant warned that he would not consent to Israeli civil or military governance of Gaza, and advocated governance by non-Hamas Palestinian entities, accompanied by international actors.

Netanyahu quickly retorted that he was “not prepared to switch from Hamastan to Fatahstan,” referencing the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.

Several right-wing lawmakers have urged Netanyahu to fire the defense minister, for what would be the second time in 14 months.

Most Popular
read more: