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Rifts Emerge in Israeli Cabinet Over Post-War Plans and Gaza’s Future

Divisions within the Israeli government have come to the forefront as cabinet members openly clashed over post-war strategies for Gaza and handling investigations related to security lapses during the October 7 attacks carried out by Hamas. Fault lines have started emerging within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition after three months of conflict with Hamas, which might potentially lead to a collapse of the government and cause new elections.

Security Cabinet’s Heated Meeting

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A heated exchange reportedly occurred during a meeting of the security cabinet on Thursday, with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich characterizing it as a “stormy discussion.” Former Defense Minister Benny Gantz described it as a “politically motivated attack.”

Challenges Facing the Government

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The disagreements centered on how to approach investigations into the October 7 Hamas attack, particularly regarding the Israeli military’s failure to anticipate it, as well as the strategy for continuing the war.

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Defense Minister’s “Day After” Plan

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Defense Minister Yoav Gallant presented a plan for the next phase of the war in Gaza, referred to as the “Day After.” It proposed a “new combat approach” that focused on targeting Hamas leaders in southern Gaza, with operations in northern Gaza involving raids, tunnel destruction, aerial and ground activities, and special operations.

Post-War Scenario

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Gallant’s plan also emphasized that after achieving the war’s objectives, there would be “no Israeli civilian presence in the Gaza Strip,” seemingly ruling out the reestablishment of Israeli settlements in Gaza that were unilaterally removed in 2005. It introduced the concept of a US-led multinational task force responsible for Gaza’s rehabilitation.

Lack of Clarity on Governance

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However, the plan provided limited details regarding the future governance of Gaza, mentioning that the “entity controlling the territory” would build upon the capabilities of existing “local non-hostile actors.”

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Transportation Minister’s Opposition

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Following a break during the meeting, Transportation Minister Miri Regev reportedly initiated a confrontational discussion, which was later disclosed publicly. Regev, a Likud member like Gallant, did not respond to inquiries about her statements.

Gantz’s Critique

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Benny Gantz, who transitioned from the opposition to the government after the October 7 attacks, criticized the meeting’s nature as a “politically motivated attack” during a time of war. He called for a focus on strategic discussions that would impact the campaign’s future and national security.

Political Backlash

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In response to Gantz’s comments, Netanyahu’s Likud party criticized him for seeking excuses to break his commitment to the unity government until the war’s conclusion. Gantz is widely regarded as a potential successor to Netanyahu in future elections.

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Controversial Resettlement Proposal

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The plan presented by Defense Minister Gallant faced criticism from Finance Minister Smotrich, who, along with National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, has advocated resettling Gazans outside of the enclave. These proposals have drawn condemnation from the US, the UN, and various Arab nations.

Smotrich’s Perspective

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Smotrich referred to Gallant’s plan as a repetition of events leading up to the October 7 attack. He advocated for “voluntary migration” and full security control, including the possibility of renewing settlements in Gaza.

Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

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Israel’s extensive military operations and blockade in Gaza have left over 2.2 million Palestinians at risk of severe deprivation, starvation, and disease. Over 1.93 million Palestinians have been displaced, and the situation has been likened to the “Nakba” by regional actors.

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High Casualty Count

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Since October 7, Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in approximately 22,600 casualties, with 70% being women and children, as reported by the Palestinian health ministry.

International Criticism

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Statements from Israeli far-right cabinet ministers advocating forced displacement have faced strong condemnation from various foreign officials. The UN’s special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing referred to such actions as an “act of genocide.”

World’s Response

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France’s Foreign Minister emphasized that Gaza’s future should be determined by international law, not Israel. The EU’s foreign policy chief criticized forced displacements as grave violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The US envisions a unified government led by a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority for both Gaza and the West Bank.

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Role of Arab States

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Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority, have conveyed to the US their need for assurances regarding a path toward a Palestinian state to participate in Gaza’s reconstruction.

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