IDF chief said to upbraid Netanyahu for failing to lay out postwar strategy for Gaza

Halevi quoted saying army faces ‘Sisyphean’ task without plan for non-Hamas governance; defense minister, Shin Bet chief also reportedly spars with PM over strategic planning

This handout photo shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (C) and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi meeting at the 'Bahad 1' military base in southern Israel, March 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)
This handout photo shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (C) and IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi meeting at the 'Bahad 1' military base in southern Israel, March 7, 2024. (Ariel Hermoni/Defense Ministry)

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi tore into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during security consultations over the weekend for failing to develop and announce a so-called “day after” strategy for who will rule Gaza after the war, according to a Saturday evening Hebrew news report.

“We are now operating once again in Jabaliya. As long as there’s no diplomatic process to develop a governing body in the Strip that isn’t Hamas, we’ll have to launch campaigns again and again in other places to dismantle Hamas’s infrastructure,” Halevi was quoted by Channel 13 as saying. “It will be a Sisyphean task.”

The report said that other senior IDF officials have also urged political leaders to make decisions and formulate a strategy, without naming them. Additionally, cabinet members reportedly warned Netanyahu that Israel’s conduct and lack of decision-making in the past few weeks were “just risking lives.”

Separately, Channel 12 news reported that Netanyahu also recently tussled with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar over the issue of strategic planning, after the latter told the prime minister that he had met with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for talks “that took into account all the fronts and considerations.”

“What?! You are holding strategic deliberations with the defense minister?” Netanyahu reportedly responded, interrupting Bar.

“What kind of a question [is that]? Of course,” Bar was said to answer.

File – Israeli troops in a Humvee drive in northern Gaza’s Salatin, close to Jabaliya, December 7, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The report said that Netanyahu then noted that both the Shin Bet and Mossad are subordinate to him, not Gallant, who in turn hit back at the premier.

“You’re preventing the defense minister from holding strategic deliberations? Who else will hold them if not us?” Gallant was reported to have said.

According the report, Netanyahu said strategic deliberations “are only held here,” prompting another heated response from Gallant: “Every time you call for strategic deliberations we come prepared. It’s my duty to hold meetings in order to come prepared. The problem is that you don’t hold these deliberations.”

The IDF is currently operating again in the northern Gaza city of Jabaliya, having already captured it during the first months of Israel’s ground offensive in the territory following Hamas’s October 7 invasion and atrocities. The new campaign was launched after the IDF said it identified attempts by Hamas to regroup in the city.

The IDF is also operating once again in Gaza City’s Zeitoun neighborhood, after similarly identifying Hamas regrouping there. Five soldiers were killed battling Hamas in Zeitoun on Friday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar (R) and his deputy for a working meeting, April 18, 2024. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Hamas has reportedly reasserted significant civil control in a number of areas of the enclave after troops swept through and then left.

Netanyahu and his government have long faced criticism over their refusal to make a plan for the management of the Strip after the war, and the prime minister has refused to hold substantive cabinet discussions on the matter due to concerns they could collapse his coalition.

Netanyahu has rejected efforts to include the Palestinian Authority in postwar planning, arguing that the more moderate foil to Hamas, which publicly backs a two-state solution, is no different from the Gaza-ruling terror group in that it too refuses to accept Israel’s existence and promotes hatred of the Jewish state.

US President Joe Biden urged Netanyahu to plan for who will govern Gaza after the war during an interview with CNN last week, saying “We’ve got to think through what is happening after this is over [in Gaza]. Who is going to occupy Gaza?”

In an interview with television psychologist Dr. Phil broadcast on Thursday, Netanyahu outlined a vague idea about governance of Gaza after the war.

“We’ll probably have to have some kind of civilian administration by Gazans who are not committed to our destruction, possibly with the aid of the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other countries that I think want to see stability and peace,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel would maintain the right to enter the enclave as necessary to root out remnant terror elements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks with Dr. Phil in an interview released on May 10, 2024. (YouTube screenshot. Used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed denounced the suggestion, saying that “the Israeli prime minister does not have any legal capacity to take this step, and the state refuses to be drawn into any plan aimed at providing cover for the Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip.”

Biden said on Wednesday that five Arab countries “are prepared to help rebuild Gaza, prepared to help transition to a two-state solution… to maintain the security and peace while they’re working out a Palestinian Authority that’s real and not corrupt.”

The US president said he didn’t want to name the five countries “because I don’t want to get them in trouble,” but was likely referring to the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Qatar.

The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 massacre, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border into Israel by land, air and sea, killing some 1,200 people and seizing 252 hostages, mostly civilians, many amid acts of brutality and sexual assault.

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