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Can Israel’s Gallant torpedo Netanyahu as Gaza 'day after' gap widens?

The Israeli prime minister believes the Biden administration is coordinating an axis in his war cabinet to influence planning on postwar Gaza.
Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant speaks to reporters ahead of the weekly cabinet meeting, Jerusalem, September 10, 2023.

TEL AVIV — What began on Wednesday as a press conference convened by Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had turned by the end into a declaration of war — not against Hamas or Hezbollah — but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sending shock waves through Israel's political and military establishments. Gallant’s afront could signal that the defense minister is currently considering leaving the government. 

The press conference on Wednesday was exceptionally dramatic. The defense minister looked directly into the cameras and clearly stated what he has been saying for a long time behind closed doors: "An [Israeli] military and civil governing of Gaza is a bad alternative dangerous to Israel," he said in open defiance of Netanyahu, at least temporarily. “I will not agree to the establishment of Israeli military rule in Gaza. Israel must not establish civilian rule in Gaza.” 

Gallant further warned that a military occupation of the Palestinian enclave would take a heavy toll in “bloodshed and victims, as well as a heavy economic price.” Describing the current war as a strategic turning point for Israel’s future, Gallant added the country’s interests would better be served by non-Hamas Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza with the help of Arab and international actors.

Clearly cognizant of the political price he stood to pay for openly challenging Netanyahu — leader of the ruling Likud to which he also belongs — Gallant told reporters that he had been urging the prime minister since October to allow discussion of the day after the Gaza war, but had only met with stonewalling. The continued lack of a decision, he warned, is eroding the military achievements of the past seven months. In fact, Gallant basically accused Netanyahu of being driven by domestic pressure from his hard-line coalition partners against handing control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority or any other external power. 

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