Gantz to give statement at 8:30 p.m., days after Gallant’s demand for Gaza post-war plan

Speculation abounds that war cabinet member will set ultimatum for remaining in coalition, as Netanyahu refuses to prepare scheme for Strip’s future

Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset, April 3, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)
File: Head of the National Unity party Minister Benny Gantz holds a press conference at the Knesset, April 3, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

War cabinet minister Benny Gantz, head of the National Unity party, announced Saturday he would hold a press conference at 8:30 p.m. in Ramat Gan, amid speculation he could issue demands for Gaza war policy and/or an ultimatum for staying in the coalition.

The upcoming press conference comes days after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned the prime minister that he must set out a post-war plan for the Gaza Strip, in a speech where he said the gains of the war were being eroded by the lack of planning, with Israel’s long-term security at stake.

Gallant warned in his address that he would not consent to Israeli civil or military governance of Gaza, and said governance by non-Hamas Palestinian entities, accompanied by international actors, was in Israel’s interest. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he said, must publicly rule out the notion of ongoing Israeli military or civil rule in the Strip.

Netanyahu did not do so, retorting that he was “not prepared to switch from Hamastan to Fatahstan,” referencing the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority.

Gallant’s decision to publicly air his disagreements with the prime minister angered many in the mostly right-wing coalition, and led to calls by multiple ministers for Gallant’s dismissal.

Despite his vehement disagreement with Netanyahu and his coalition partners on most subjects, Gantz brought his party into the coalition days after Hamas’s October 7 attacks in order to help tackle the challenges of the war.

However, he and his National Unity partner Gadi Eisenkot — both former IDF chiefs — are widely reported to share Gallant’s concerns and to have pressed for months for Israel to formulate a post-war plan, to no avail.

File: Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (center) and Minister Benny Gantz (right) embrace, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at left, at a joint press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on November 11, 2023. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL)

The heads of Israel’s security establishment are reported to have voiced similar concerns on multiple occasions.

Netanyahu argues that it is irrelevant to plan for a post-Hamas Gaza before the terror group has been eliminated, as no body will agree to take responsibility for the enclave so long as Hamas can pose a danger to potential successors.

Critics say Hamas cannot be fully eradicated, and that any effort to rebuild civil administration of the Strip must start in tandem with the ongoing military campaign against the terror group.

Some accuse Netanyahu of avoiding the subject not due to practical considerations, but due to intense opposition he faces for such a move from his far-right coalition partners Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir. Both have voiced their support for Israel maintaining permanent control over Gaza and rebuilding Israeli settlements there.

Gallant hinted as much in his own comments on Wednesday, when he said that “for the sake of the state’s future, we have to make tough decisions — to advance the national interest over all other interests, even if this requires paying personal or political costs.”

File: Ministers Benny Gantz (L) and Gadi Eisenkot present an outline for the draft of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews into the Israeli army during a press conference in the Knesset, February 26, 2024. (Sam Sokol)

On Friday, several Hebrew outlets reported Netanyahu would convene the war cabinet on Saturday night for a further discussion of Gallant’s vision for Gaza after the war, as well as deadlocked efforts to negotiate a deal for the release of hostages held by Hamas.

At a Thursday meeting of the security cabinet, several ministers castigated Gallant over his demands, with Ben Gvir repeating his call for Gallant to be fired.

Gallant was previously dismissed by the prime minister on March 25 of last year, amid the national unrest over the government’s efforts to overhaul the judiciary. His firing, after he made a similar public appeal in which he warned the overhaul was endangering Israel’s security and emboldening its enemies — months before the October 7 disaster — sparked massive nationwide protests and strikes. Netanyahu froze the overhaul plan the next day and walked back Gallant’s removal two weeks later. Only one part of the overhaul legislation subsequently became law.

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.”

File – Far-right leaders Itamar Ben Gvir (2-R) and Bezalel Smotrich at the Knesset on December 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

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.

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 hefty sums on rebuilding and repairing infrastructure in the enclave.

Troops of the 7th Armored Brigade operate in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya, in a handout image published May 17, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

The report also stated that hundreds of people would likely 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.

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