| Knesset Channel |

Gallant Says “Don’t”

To say that the two former chiefs of staff, Gantz and Eisenkot, are fed up with Netanyahu’s behavior would be the understatement of the century


At a press conference on Wednesday last week, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant publicly threw down the gauntlet before his boss, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, demanding that he rule out Israeli military control of Gaza the day after Hamas is defeated.

This isn’t the first time Gallant has openly rebelled against the government he serves in. The first time came when he demanded to end the judicial reform earlier this year. Netanyahu fired him immediately, a move he had to retract in the face of massive protests. This time when Gallant spoke out, the prime minister’s response was notably measured.

As the man heading Israel’s security forces on October 7, Gallant won’t be able to escape accountability, but to be fair, his gripes over Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich’s influence date back to his first day in office.

“There can only be one defense minister,” he said while repeatedly thwarting Smotrich in the latter’s role as “minister for settler affairs” within the Defense Ministry, a portfolio he holds alongside the Finance Ministry.

Gallant sees Smotrich and Ben Gvir as the main reason Netanyahu is avoiding the question of the day after, which is straining Israel’s relations with its friends around the world, especially the United States, and allowing Hamas to fill the vacuum wherever the IDF pulls back.

The defense minister’s warning last week was reinforced by Benny Gantz, chairman of the National Unity Party, in a speech he gave last Motzaei Shabbos. Gantz effectively reiterated Gallant’s points, with the addition of a deadline for National Unity’s withdrawal from the emergency government if a working plan for “the day after” in the Gaza Strip isn’t put on the table by June 8.

While Bibi’s response to Gallant, whose vote he still needs in the Knesset plenum, was temperate, his response to Gantz, whose resignation from the unity government is effectively a fait accompli, was very different. A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office accused the former chief of staff of pushing for “an end to the war, Israel’s defeat, leaving Hamas intact, and establishing a Palestinian state.”


The first to propose Israeli military rule of the Gaza Strip was Bezalel Smotrich, and of late Netanyahu seems to be pondering the same option, though without admitting it publicly. Per the IDF’s assessment, a long-term Israeli military presence in the Strip would require it to triple its manpower, putting further strain on an already overstretched military. Gallant and Gantz each took to their podiums with a clear message for Netanyahu: Don’t even think about it.

Netanyahu’s reaction to Gallant’s protest this time was deliberately vague, simply an emphatic repetition of his mantra that the Gaza Strip will be “neither Hamastan nor Fatahstan” — the latter a pointed rejection of the American administration’s push for a revitalized Palestinian Authority to assume governance of the strip the day after.

Netanyahu opted against fanning the flames of Gallant’s rebellion for a number of reasons. The first is that he still remembers the fallout from his dismissal of Gallant last time around, which drew hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets, forcing him to humiliatingly reinstate the recalcitrant minister. The second reason stems from the fact that now, Netanyahu will need every right-wing coalition member in order to cling to power after the expected resignation of Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, for which they circled a date on the calendar in their Motzaei Shabbos press conference.

To say that the two former chiefs of staff, Gantz and Eisenkot, are fed up with Netanyahu’s behavior would be the understatement of the century. The two have remained in the cabinet over the past two months due to an interplay of political and military considerations. On the military level, Gantz and Eisenkot believed that their opinion still carried weight in the war cabinet, but that has changed in recent weeks as Netanyahu deliberately excluded them from critical discussions about the conduct of the war.

And of course, there’s a political aspect as well — as there always is in Israel, even during a war. According to the polls, over eight seats’ worth of right-wing voters are currently resting under the big tent of Gantz’s National Unity Party, but if the latter quits the government and is successfully portrayed by Netanyahu as having jumped ship for political reasons in wartime, those right-wing voters will seek an alternative.

Recent polls, however, have shown Gantz that for every week he keeps his support from the right alive, he’s bleeding support from the left, who see his continued membership in Netanyahu’s government as a red line.

Gantz and Eisenkot’s resignation will weaken the government’s mandate but won’t immediately bring it down. Gallant, for his part, has harsh criticisms of Netanyahu, but has made it clear behind closed doors that he has no intention of resigning as long as Netanyahu remains in office. It may end up being the pair’s beef, with neither willing to resign before the other, that buys the government many more months than any commentators expected it to enjoy after October 7.


Netanyahu’s ability to drag his feet, procrastinate, and delay wherever possible — and even where impossible — is a talent that has earned him the distinction of being Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. But with regards to the plan of action for the day after, this trait seems rather less attractive after Simchas Torah 5784.

Is it true that Netanyahu still doesn’t have a plan for the day after? A cabinet source I spoke with believes that Netanyahu does have a plan and is acting on it, but refuses to admit it publicly to avoid trouble with the Americans on the one hand and with his right-wing partners on the other.

The prime minister has no interest in formally announcing Israeli military rule of the strip, per Smotrich’s advice, but will gradually increase Israel’s involvement in the strip, including civilian services, based on the model of America’s presence in postwar Germany.

Unlike the right-wing MKs he disdains no less than does Gallant, Netanyahu has no ambition to renew Jewish settlement in Gaza, or hold it in the long term. His plan, according to a cabinet source, is to provide basic services to civilians in the Gaza Strip while striving to create a political entity other than the Palestinian Authority in cooperation with the Saudis and the UAE. But that can only happen when Hamas is no longer seen as the government of the Gaza Strip, as it currently is, with the abductees in its hands and Sinwar setting the tone of the negotiations.

This plan should, of course, be taken with a grain of salt. Netanyahu’s old master plan of deterring Hamas while achieving peace agreements with the Arab world in disregard of the Palestinians still rings in our ears. And we all remember how that ended on October 7.—


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1012)

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