Netanyahu said to brush aside Smotrich call for Israeli military governance of Gaza

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during a cabinet meeting convened to approve the 2024 amended state budget, January 15, 2024. (Haim Zach, GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich during a cabinet meeting convened to approve the 2024 amended state budget, January 15, 2024. (Haim Zach, GPO)

At this morning’s cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brushed aside a demand by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for Israeli military governance in Gaza, and indicated that Israel is working on fresh ideas for non-Israeli civil governance of the Strip, Israel’s Channel 12 reports.

The TV report asserts, furthermore, that Israel has taken a decision in principle to install an alternative to Hamas in the governance of northern Gaza.

It cites an exchange between ministers at this morning’s cabinet meeting at which Smotrich demanded that the IDF take responsibility for distributing humanitarian aid in Gaza. In response, Netanyahu reportedly said that Israel has been trying to work with local Gazan clans to distribute aid, that this effort has failed, and that Israel is now making “other efforts” to resolve the issue.

According to the TV report, the head of the IDF’s strategic branch, Eliezer Toledano, told the ministers that over 1,000 trucks filled with humanitarian aid are stuck inside Gaza, not being distributed, because UN aid agencies are afraid to try to do so, fearing they will be attacked by various armed gangs.

Far-right Religious Zionism party leader Smotrich retorted that Israel needs to “stop being afraid of military governance” by the IDF in Gaza, and that “the entire humanitarian issue, including distribution of aid, should be transferred to the responsibility of the IDF.”

“If I was the prime minister, I would have compelled you to do this long ago,” Smotrich reportedly added. “We won’t achieve the war goals if we continue to send in food and fuel [that ends up in] the hands of Hamas.

Smotrich has for months been advocating long-term Israeli military and civil governance of Gaza, a policy publicly opposed by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, while Netanyahu has advocated a post-war civil administration run by Gazans.

Responding to Smotrich, Netanyahu reportedly told the meeting: “We’ve made efforts with local clans [to take a role in distributing aid]. We know they’ve been brutally eliminated by Hamas. This is not the forum in which to expand on this, but we are making other efforts to advance this.”

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