Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has outlined a new phase in the ongoing conflict with Gaza, including plans for the territory after Hamas is removed from power. The announcement comes amidst intense clashes within Israel’s leadership over the future of Gaza.
Israel Details Plan to Break Up Gaza into Enclaves After War
As aerial bombardments and rocket fire continue with no end in sight, Gallant revealed on Thursday that Israel intends to replace Hamas rule in Gaza with governance by local clans and constituencies.
“The operational plan is to move to the next stage in which the Hamas regime will be eliminated and a civil governance based on local leadership of Gaza Strip constituencies and clans will be established,” Gallant said at a press conference.
The plan calls for Gaza to be divided into separate enclaves, each under the administration of a local faction. Israel would manage security and border crossings to prevent smuggling.
Sources familiar with the clan-based model said the coastal territory could be split into three or four areas centered around Gaza City, Khan Younis, Rafah, and the former Jewish settlement of Netzarim.
“We will not control Gaza again,” Gallant stated. He contended that no coherent Palestinian political entity exists to assume authority and that the factional splintering within Gaza makes clan rule the only viable option.
War Cabinet Meeting Ends in Disarray Over Gaza Future
Gallant’s announcement followed the abrupt cancellation of a Security Cabinet session to discuss postwar scenarios for Gaza, underscoring growing turmoil within Israel’s leadership.
- Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly called off the meeting after facing demands from far-right politicians to continue the offensive.
- Hardline lawmakers oppose ceding any control over Gaza and want wider military goals achieved before planning a withdrawal.
- Infighting over Gaza’s future has intensified pressure on the new coalition government.
“The disagreements within the Israeli leadership could not be more pronounced,” said analyst David Rothkopf. He warned the lack of consensus severely complicates efforts to develop a coherent Gaza strategy.
International Frustration Mounts as Conflict Drags On
Israel’s failure to outline a clear exit plan has increased strain with allies as the fighting nears its second month.
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarks Friday on a Mideast tour aiming to broker an end to hostilities.
- French President Emmanuel Macron blasted the lack of progress, demanding Israel present a framework for resolving the crisis.
- Arab states allied with Israel have remained silent over its military campaign and handling of Gaza.
Diplomats concede that eliminating Hamas requires an alternative governing structure with backing across Palestinian factions.
“There cannot be a political vacuum in Gaza after this war,” said UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland. “If Israel insists on dismantling Hamas, it must have Palestinian consent and a plan for the day after. Otherwise, this will only sow the seeds for further radicalization and conflict.”
Intensified Bombing Renews Concerns Over Civilian Casualties
The turmoil within Israel’s leadership has coincided with what appears to be a shift towards more aggressive bombing aimed at completely neutralizing Hamas.
- After a strike killed 12 civilians Wednesday in an area where Israel had urged Gazans to seek shelter, the military insisted it attacked only legitimate Hamas sites.
- But journalists and rights groups refuted those claims, saying they found no evidence of military activity.
|| Children Killed || Adult Civilians Killed || Hamas Fighters Killed ||
Table: Palestinian casualties after 58 days of Israeli bombing campaign. Figures as of January 5, 2024. (Source: Gaza Health Ministry)
With peace efforts languishing, there are fears that a new offensive to oust Hamas risks triggering a humanitarian emergency and further loss of innocent life.
Gaza’s Future Remains Uncertain as Israel Weighs Military Goals
Deep divisions clearly remain within Israel’s government over achieving military objectives versus planning an exit from Gaza:
- Netanyahu is under pressure from hardliners to continue the offensive until Hamas is completely disarmed and its attack tunnel network fully exposed.
- But the drawn-out assault has hurt Israel’s international standing. With Blinken arriving, Netanyahu risks further straining ties with the U.S.
- Planning for Gaza’s future governance cannot wait until some elusive mission success. Israel must articulate now how Palestinians will have a voice after Hamas.
The vague assurances of Gallant’s plan will likely only heighten international impatience with Israel’s conduct of the war.
“It is unrealistic to think clans can govern Gaza while lacking legitimacy or standing to negotiate issues central to Gazans’ future,” said Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East director at the Center for New American Security. “This crisis will fester without a realistic strategy for the day after that empowers Palestinian pragmatists.”
Israel remains locked in indecision over Gaza. It may seek to wait out pressure from Biden, Macron and other allies demanding a settlement. But the longer Israel bombs Gaza while refusing to outline a path to peace, the less likely this conflict will result in meaningful progress for either side.
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