Cabinet discusses vision for day after Hamas is defeated

Gallant’s post-war Gaza plan: Palestinians to run civil affairs with global task force

Defense minister’s 4-part proposal calls for ongoing Israeli military control; no Jewish settlement; US, Egypt, moderate Arab countries to lead rehabilitation; Smotrich slams it

Defense Yoav Galant holds a joint press conference with minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich (not seen) in Jerusalem, on December 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Defense Yoav Galant holds a joint press conference with minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich (not seen) in Jerusalem, on December 26, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday presented a four-pronged plan for how to handle the Gaza Strip after the ongoing war with the Hamas terror group ends, with the IDF retaining full military control but no civilian presence, and local Palestinian authorities playing a central role in civil affairs.

The plan, which was set to be presented in discussions on Thursday evening in both the limited war cabinet and the broader security cabinet, does not include a role for the Palestinian Authority, and it does not provide for resettling Gaza.

The plan marks the first time a senior Israeli official has laid out a detailed blueprint for the Strip after the war, but it does not yet represent official policy, as there are stark differences over it within the coalition.

Gallant told journalists before the meeting that his framework is based on the assumption that Hamas is no longer in control of Gaza and does not pose a security threat to Israel. It focuses on the civil governance of the strip, with Israel retaining military control on the borders, and the right to take any military and security action necessary inside Gaza.

“Gaza residents are Palestinian, therefore Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against the State of Israel,” Gallant said.

While Gallant’s insistence on full Israeli security control and freedom of action is shared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Gallant plan’s emphasis on Palestinian civilian control over Gaza, with no Israeli civilian presence there, has angered hardline coalition partners. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, whose desire for renewed Jewish settlement in Gaza is ruled out in Gallant’s plan, said Thursday that he firmly opposed it.

“Gallant’s ‘day after’ plan is a re-run of the ‘day before’ October 7,” Smotrich said. “The solution for Gaza requires out-of-the-box thinking and a changed conception.” Smotrich repeated his contention that a solution for Gaza involves “encouraging voluntary emigration [of Gazans] and full [Israeli] security control including renewed settlement.”

War has raged in the coastal enclave since Hamas’s brutal October 7 massacres, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel from Gaza by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing over 240 hostages — mostly civilians — under the cover of a deluge of thousands of rockets fired at Israeli towns and cities.

In response, Israel vowed to eliminate the terror group, and launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas’s military and governance capacities and securing the release of the hostages.

IDF troops seen operating inside the Gaza Strip in this handout photo released for publication on January 4, 2023. (IDF)

The defense minister’s plan, which has already been presented to the US administration and discussed with other allies, has four “pillars” for civil rule in post-war Gaza.

First, Israel will coordinate and plan an oversight role in civil governance, and be responsible for inspecting incoming goods.

Second, a multinational task force, led by the US in partnership with European and moderate Arab nations, will take responsibility for running civil affairs and the economic rehabilitation of the Strip.

Third, Egypt, which is noted as a “major actor” in the plan, will take responsibility for the main civilian border crossing into the Gaza Strip, in coordination with Israel.

Fourth, existing Palestinian administrative mechanisms will be maintained, provided that the relevant officials are not affiliated with Hamas. Local authorities that currently deal with sewage, electricity, water and humanitarian aid distribution will continue to operate, in collaboration with the multinational task force.

It is understood that Gallant envisages the transfer of relief and welfare responsibilities away from UNRWA, which Israel regards as “hostile,” but that this would take time.

The plan does not provide for a body to oversee law and order in the Strip, with that issue yet to be resolved.

Top security officials told The Times of Israel that the transition of responsibilities to the hands of a local administration under the plan would need to be carried out gradually, and not all at once, given the existing infrastructure.

A tent camp in Khan Younis, the southern Gaza Strip, set up by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinians internally displaced by the Israel-Hamas war, October 19, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP)

The officials also said that clans, local bureaucrats, government officials and even academics living in Gaza’s cities and refugee camps would have civil governance roles in designated areas of the Strip.

In the press briefing, Gallant said that the question of possible Palestinian Authority involvement in post-war Gaza was not relevant at this stage, as it has not gone through necessary reforms.

Netanyahu has been insistent that the PA, in its current form under the leadership of President Mahmud Abbas, cannot be tasked with taking over Gaza after the war.

However, the allies tapped for the multinational task force have repeatedly made clear that their support for the reconstruction of Gaza is conditioned on the PA being the governing body that reunites the Strip with the West Bank and that the process be part of a broader initiative aimed at an eventual two-state solution.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool, File)

US and Israeli officials have told The Times of Israel that Netanyahu’s aides have privately expressed their support for an “RPA” or “reformed PA,” eventually governing Gaza, while the premier himself has not spoken publicly about this idea amid fears of alienating far-right ministers Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir.

Even more unpopular in the coalition than talk of a PA-controlled Gaza Strip, however, would be an Israeli commitment to move toward a two-state solution, and Gallant did not specify how Israel plans to recruit allies abroad to help it rebuild the Strip without taking steps toward Palestinian statehood.

Gallant’s plan states that residents of northern Gaza will not be permitted to return to their homes until all hostages held by terrorists in Gaza are returned, and notes that there are no plans for a reoccupation or resettlement of Gaza after the goals of the war have been achieved.

His comments come after recent calls by Smotrich and Ben Gvir to resettle Gazans abroad and reestablish settlements in Gaza caused widespread international condemnation, including from the US.

It is believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — after 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity during a weeklong truce in late November. Four hostages were released prior to that, and one was rescued by troops. The bodies of eight hostages have also been recovered and three hostages were mistakenly killed by the military. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 25 of those still held by Hamas, citing new intelligence and findings obtained by troops operating in Gaza.

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