IDF, Shin Bet said to favor Palestinian clans temporarily administering Gaza

Defense chiefs reportedly to present plan to divide war-torn Strip into areas, where local groups will take over administration and distribution of aid

Workers and staff unload medical aid delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
Workers and staff unload medical aid delivered by the International Committee of the Red Cross at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 9, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

Israeli security chiefs are reportedly set to propose a plan by which Palestinian clans in the Gaza Strip will temporarily administer the coastal enclave after the ongoing war to remove Hamas ends, with each clan handling humanitarian aid and resources for their local regions.

The Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet security service want to divide Gaza into regions and sub-regions, with civil administration and the distribution of humanitarian aid in each area entrusted to a local clan, the Kan public broadcaster reported Monday. Only clans that are familiar to Israeli security officials will be entrusted to manage the aid that will enter the war-torn Strip from Egypt and Israel, the report said.

The plan, formulated by the IDF as a stopgap until a more permanent arrangement for Gaza is found, was to be presented to the security cabinet on Tuesday, the report said. However, the meeting was pushed off after Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri was killed in a strike in the heart of Beirut on Tuesday in an attack attributed to Israel.

Instead, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the two other members of the war cabinet, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Minister Benny Gantz, along with their advisers. The security cabinet meeting on the future of Gaza was rescheduled for Wednesday.

Hamas has ruled the Gaza Strip since it seized control of the territory in 2007 from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by the terror group’s rival Fatah party.

On October 7, Hamas attacked Israel, killing over 1,200 people, mostly civilians slaughtered amid brutal atrocities, and abducting at least 240 others as hostages in Gaza. Israel responded with a military campaign to destroy Hamas, remove it from power, and free the hostages.

Netanyahu has been insistent that the Palestinian Authority, in its current form under the leadership of President Mahmud Abbas, cannot be tasked with taking over Gaza after the war. He reiterated that sentiment at a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee on Monday, telling lawmakers, “There is no point in talking about the PA as part of the management of Gaza as long as the PA has not undergone a fundamental change,” according to Kan.

FILE – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) hosts Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, August 17, 2023. (Secretary of State Blinken, via Twitter)

Netanyahu’s comments followed a meeting last week between a close Netanyahu confidant, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, and US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to discuss the postwar Palestinian governance of Gaza, though the governing body was left unspecified.

The discussion about postwar Gaza has raised tensions within the government and with the US.

Last week, Netanyahu canceled a planned war cabinet discussion on the future of Gaza. Channel 12 reported that he had done so under pressure from his senior far-right political allies, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, neither of whom are in the three-member war cabinet.

Channel 12 had previously reported that the premier canceled such discussions on three separate occasions due to his unwillingness to address the postwar role of the PA.

MKs Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich at a rally of their Religious Zionism party in the southern city of Sderot on October 26, 2022. (Gil Cohen-Magen / AFP)

The two far-right ministers demanded that Netanyahu instead discuss the matter in the wider security cabinet, where they both are members. Meanwhile, Smotrich has detailed his own plan for postwar Gaza, which includes Jewish resettlement of the Strip and mass deportation, or “immigration encouragement,” of its Palestinian population.

The Biden administration is adamantly opposed to Israel occupying Gaza after the war, and has advocated for the Strip to be entrusted to a “revamped” Palestinian Authority. The issue will likely loom large on the agenda of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is expected to visit Israel this week.

Martin Indyk, who served as US ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, appeared to criticize the plan put forward by Israel’s security chiefs. On X, formerly Twitter, Indyk wrote that the plan harks back to a similar plan from the 1970s, which would have seen the West Bank governed by “village leagues,” who, according to Indyk, “were universally rejected by the Palestinians as collaborators.”

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