ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Austin says he talked ‘post-conflict planning for Gaza’ with Gallant, in jab at PM who has avoided such discussions

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (L) and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant give a joint press conference in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says he spoke with Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant yesterday about “post-conflict planning for Gaza” in an apparent dig at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has blocked cabinet discussions on the matter.

A US official told The Times of Israel earlier this week that the Biden administration does not have a lot of confidence in Netanyahu’s handling of the war, citing his rejection of the Palestinian Authority retaking control of the Strip.

The prime minister’s far-right coalition partners are pushing for resettling Gaza with Israeli civilians, encouraging its Palestinian residents to emigrate and maintaining a military occupation on those who remain — policies that Netanyahu says he opposes and ones that would strip Jerusalem of any remaining support from Washington. Accordingly, the premier has avoided bringing discussions regarding the “day after” in Gaza to the cabinet, even as IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi warns that this risks foiling Israel’s military gains in Gaza.

The US official argued that Netanyahu has thwarted regional efforts to have a new administration put in place in parts of northern Gaza cleared by Israeli troops late last year, allowing Hamas to once again fill the vacuum.

In recent weeks, the Israel Defense Forces has had to send troops back into the area to fight off the resurgence of Hamas activity.

The US readout on Austin’s call with Gallant says the two also discussed “the need to increase humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and West Bank stabilization efforts.”

“Secretary Austin reiterated the need to protect civilians as Israel conducts its operations against Hamas,” and the pair “discussed the US response to attacks against US forces by Iranian-aligned militia groups.”

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