Netanyahu sets up secret forum to weigh post-war plans in Gaza — report

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has set up a small, secret team of top allies and representatives from the defense establishment to discuss post-war plans for Gaza, Channel 13 reported Sunday night.

According to the report, the team is led by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and includes representatives from the Israel Defense Forces, the Mossad, and the Shin Bet.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Mike Herzog has also been at the meetings, according to the report, which added that the team has already met four times and is expected to meet again this week.

A senior official told Channel 13 that Israel “informed the Americans about the existence of the team, and it is important to the Biden administration that Jerusalem present a plan for the day after.”

Washington has indeed been pressing Israel on a post-war plan and, according to reports, wants Israel to soon wind down the war, sparked by Hamas’s October 7 atrocities and now into its third month.

Israel says it is committed to eliminating Hamas to defend itself and to topple its rule in Gaza.

Netanyahu has said that Israel would retain an open-ended security presence in Gaza and Israeli officials have talked of imposing a buffer zone to keep Gazans away from the Israeli border, a plan the US opposes. Israeli officials rule out any role for an unreformed Palestinian Authority, which was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007 but governs semi-autonomous areas of the West Bank.

Meanwhile, top US officials have said they will not allow Israel to reoccupy Gaza or further shrink its already small territory. They have repeatedly called for the eventual return of the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority and the resumption of peace talks aimed at establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Channel 13 said any conclusions reached by the Hanegbi-led team will also be presented to the security cabinet.

The report cited Hanegbi as saying during a recent meeting that there was “a high probability that the day after will have to include the cooperation of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the building of infrastructure in partnership with them to prevent a future war.”

Dermer said at the meeting, according to the report: “There needs to be a radical change in the Palestinian Authority and its education system. Without these cultural changes Israel will find itself facing a hostile population.”

An IDF spokesperson said in response to the report that it was the defense establishment “duty to look ahead,” but that any final decision will be taken at “the political level.”

AP contributed to this report.

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