Defense Minister Outlines Military Shift As Critics Push Back on Civilian Handover
As Israel’s bombardment of Gaza enters its fifth week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has outlined a new phase in the military campaign while continuing to face criticism of plans to hand over control of the coastal enclave after the conflict.
Speaking on January 4th, Gallant confirmed that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) would be shifting to rely more heavily on air power and limited ground incursions rather than risk the high casualties associated with a full-scale invasion. However, he reaffirmed that Israel seeks a decisive victory over Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza.
[insert table summarizing Gallant’s broad military plans]
|New Military Approach
|Focus on airstrikes and artillery rather than ground invasion
|Limited ground operations
|Smaller-scale incursions over border to destroy tunnels and other infrastructure
|Attacks on Hamas leadership
|Continued targeting of militant commanders through airstrikes
|Naval blockade to remain in place restricting flow of weapons and goods
This confirmation of strategic change comes as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces criticism over delays in finalizing a plan for administering Gaza after hostilities end. Hardline members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition are pushing back on proposals from security officials to temporarily hand over control of Gaza to local clans after Hamas rule collapses.
Netanyahu Under Pressure From Right-Wing Partners
Far-right Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich has been particularly vocal, threatening to bring down the government if Palestinian Authority or other international forces play any administrative role. He continues to advocate the full re-occupation of Gaza by the IDF.
Other coalition critics have accused Netanyahu of delaying decisions on Gaza’s future in a bid to avoid confrontation with regional allies like Saudi Arabia, which reportedly oppose permanent Israeli control. Netanyahu cancelled a key January 3rd meeting of security chiefs to discuss proposals.
However, the Prime Minister retains the support of moderates like Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. Deputy Prime Minister Galit Distel Atbaryan has also cautioned Smotrich against making security issues into “a political football”.
Clan Rule Preferred by Security Establishment
While final approval rests with the political echelon, operational plans from security agencies reportedly back temporary rule in Gaza by local clan leaders after hostilities end.
Details remain uncertain, but IDF and Shin Bet directors are said to favor establishing five or six tribal zones across Gaza. This temporary measure would function until long-term options are agreed.
Proponents argue clan figures could restore order and basic services, contain factional violence between Palestinian groups, and disrupt tunnel rebuilding. They cite the failures of past efforts at external control from 2007-2014.
However, others counter that internal divisions among Gazan families remain unresolved. Some clan elders have already denounced the proposal as an Israeli plot to divide Palestinians. Human rights groups are also warning the plans could fuel further instability.
International Support Crucial for Rebuilding
Regardless of specific governance arrangements, Defense Minister Gallant told journalists on January 4th that the reconstruction of Gaza’s devastated infrastructure will require support from the international community.
He envisions a multinational task force overseeing efforts to rebuild critical transportation links, energy grids, water sanitation and health facilities largely destroyed by weeks of Israeli bombardment.
However, allies such as the United States have indicated financial assistance would be contingent on progress towards a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. This aligns with the stance of moderate Arab states, but clashes with the territorial maximalism advocated by Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners.
Blinken Visit Seeks to Chart Path to Ending Conflict
The fluid planning for Gaza’s future comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived on January 5th to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders. This surprise visit aims to mediate an end to hostilities and restore a long-term ceasefire.
However, previous mediation attempts have failed and the visit has prompted only muted optimism. Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh again vowed to continue “resistance” until Israel lifts its blockade on Gaza. Israeli bombardment has so far killed over 2,400 Palestinians according to health officials, along with 120 IDF soldiers based on official data.
With Benjamin Netanyahu needing to placate his right-wing base and facing pressure from allies, the path towards ending the bloodshed remains unclear. Gaza’s civilian population continues to bear the brunt of the deadlock.
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