Inside story

US pressing Israel to devise strategy for scenario of Hamas’s rule being toppled

PM’s inner circle has indicated that it hasn’t thought that far ahead, leading US officials to warn that failing to do so could result in IDF being bogged down in Gaza indefinitely

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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center left) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv after talks on October 16, 2023 ((Haim Zach / GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center left) and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv after talks on October 16, 2023 ((Haim Zach / GPO)

US President Joe Biden’s administration has privately been pressing Israel in recent days to flesh out its strategy for the day after it completes its stated war goal of toppling Hamas, a US official and an Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Monday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his inner circle have indicated to their American counterparts that Israel has not yet come up with such a strategy and is more focused on the immediate goal of removing Hamas from power in Gaza, the US official said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan told CNN on Sunday, “We’re not thinking now what will happen the day after the war… We need to win this war, and that’s the only thing that we’re focused on.”

The US official speaking with The Times of Israel cautioned against this approach. Without a strategy for who will control the Strip instead of Hamas, the IDF is more likely to get bogged down in Gaza indefinitely, despite Israel insisting that it does not want to reoccupy the enclave.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel that National Unity party chair Benny Gantz and fellow faction member Gadi Eisenkot demanded the creation of a Gaza exit strategy upon their entry into the government last week and that the pair have tasked a committee with drawing one up.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet at the IDF’s Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv Monday. He reportedly urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza in order to maintain international support for the IDF’s military operation aimed at dismantling Hamas.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (bottom left) meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his cabinet in Israel on October 16, 2023. (Haim Zach/GPO)

“The Biden administration understands the need to dismantle Hamas and stresses that one of the ways to make sure there is enough time to do it is by avoiding a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” a senior Israeli official told the Axios news site

Israel has largely held off on allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza, as it seeks to pressure Hamas to release the 200 to 250 hostages being held in the Strip.

Netanyahu is also concerned that some in his hardline coalition will oppose allowing humanitarian aid into Gaza and that it could spark public backlash in Israel, Axios reported.

Blinken later announced that the US and Israel were developing a plan to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, and said Biden would discuss the plan when he visits Israel on Wednesday.

Blinken was in Israel Monday for the second time since the war broke out on October 7 when at least 1,500 Hamas terrorists burst across the border into Israel from the Gaza Strip by land, air and sea, killing 1,300 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 200 to 250 hostages of all ages. The group also launched a deluge of thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, which has persisted since, sending Blinken to a bomb shelter at least once during his trip.

Entire families were executed in their homes, and over 260 were slaughtered at an outdoor festival, many amid horrific acts of brutality by the terrorists, in what Biden has highlighted as “the worst massacre of the Jewish people since the Holocaust.”

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