Israeli Leaders Split Over Post-War Gaza Governance

Prime Minister Netanyahu remains steadfast in his goal of “eliminating” Hamas (File)

Fresh divisions are emerging among Israeli leaders over control of the post-war Gaza Strip, with an unexpected pushback by Hamas in parts of the Palestinian territory and mounting pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli forces have been fighting Hamas operatives across Gaza for more than seven months, while exchanging fire almost daily with Iranian-backed Hezbollah forces along the northern border with Lebanon.

But major rifts have emerged within Israel’s war cabinet in recent days after Hamas fighters regrouped in northern Gaza, where Israel had previously said they had been neutralized.

After the war, Prime Minister Netanyahu came under personal attack from Defense Minister Yoav Galant for failing to remove the Israeli government from Gaza.

The Israeli prime minister’s open rejection of the post-war Palestinian leadership in Gaza has sharply torn apart the rift between top politicians and soured relations with the United States, its biggest ally.

Experts argue that the lack of clarity will only benefit Hamas. Hamas leaders insist that no new authority can be established in the territory without Hamas’ involvement.

“Hamas will continue to grow unless there are alternatives to fill the void,” International Crisis Group analyst Mairav ​​Zonszein told AFP.

Emmanuel Nabon, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University, echoed this sentiment.

“If only Hamas is left in Gaza, of course they will pop up everywhere and the Israeli military will go after them,” Nabon said.

“Either create an Israeli military government or create an Arab-led government.”

US pressure

“I call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take a decision and declare that Israel will not establish civilian control in the Gaza Strip,” Gallant said in a televised address on Wednesday.

The prime minister’s war plans have also recently come under attack from military commander Helzi Halevi and senior members of the Shin Bet security apparatus, according to Israeli media reports.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is also under pressure from Washington to end the conflict quickly and avoid becoming drawn into a lengthy counterinsurgency operation.

The US government had previously called for a “resurrected” form of Palestinian Authority to rule Gaza after the war.

But Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected any role for the PA in post-war Gaza, saying on Thursday that the PA was “supporting terrorism, educating terrorism and financing terrorism.”

Instead, Prime Minister Netanyahu stuck to his firm goal of “eliminating” Hamas, insisting that “military victory is the only option”.

Experts say that confidence in Prime Minister Netanyahu is waning.

“With Mr. Gallant’s criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s lack of next-day plans for governing Gaza, some real cracks are starting to appear in Israel’s war cabinet,” said Colin, director of policy research at the Soufan Group think tank. P. Clark says. wrote on X (old Twitter).

“I don’t know if I know many people who trust Mr. Bibi, including the most ardent supporters of Israel,” he said, using Prime Minister Netanyahu’s nickname.

Hostage “stalemate”

The Gaza war erupted after a Hamas attack on southern Israel that left more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, dead, according to an AFP tally of Israeli officials.

Hamas operatives also held about 250 hostages, of whom Israel estimates 125 remain in Gaza, while the military says 37 are dead.

Israel’s military retaliation has left at least 35,386 people dead, most of them civilians, and the Israeli siege poses severe food shortages and the threat of starvation, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Health Ministry.

Many Israelis supported Prime Minister Netanyahu’s outspoken goal of seeking revenge against Hamas in the wake of the October 7 attack.

But now hopes for the hostages’ return are fading, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s patience may be reaching its limit, experts said.

On Friday, the military announced it had recovered the bodies of three hostages killed in the October 7 attack.

Hostage release negotiations brokered by Egypt, the United States and Qatar have stalled after Israeli forces invaded the far southern city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Gazans have taken refuge.

“The hostage trade is at a complete standstill. We can no longer give the appearance of progress,” said Zonsine of the International Crisis Group.

“Add to that the breakdown with the United States and the fact that Egypt is refusing to pass aid through Rafah, all of that is coming to a head.”

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)