JERUSALEM: An Israeli minister said on Saturday he would resign from the “war cabinet” unless Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a long-term plan for the Gaza Strip.

“The war cabinet must formulate and approve by June 8 an action plan that will lead to the realisation of six strategic goals of national importance, (or) we will be forced to resign from the government,” Benny Gantz said, referring to his party, in a televised address directed at Netanyahu.

Gantz said the six goals included toppling Hamas, ensuring Israeli security control over the Palestinian territory and returning Israeli prisoners.

“Along with maintaining Israeli security control, establish an American, European, Arab and Palestinian administration that will manage civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip and lay the foundation for a future alternative that is not Hamas or (Mahmud) Abbas,” he said, referring to the president of the Palestinian Authority.

He also urged the normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia “as part of an overall move that will create an alliance with the free world and the Arab world against Iran and its affiliates”.

Broad splits have emerged in the Israeli `war cabinet’ in recent days after Hamas fighters regrouped in northern Gaza, an area where Israel previously said the group had been neutralised.

Earlier in the week, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant slammed Netanyahu for failing to rule out an Israeli government in Gaza after normalisation.

The prime minister’s outright rejection of post-war Palestinian leadership in Gaza has broken wide open a rift among top politicians and also frustrated relations with top ally the United States.

Netanyahu is also under pressure from Washington to bring a swift end to the conflict and avoid being mired in a long campaign.

Washington has previously called for a “revitalised” form of the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza.

Lack of clarity

Experts say the lack of clarity only serves to benefit Hamas, whose leader has insisted no new authority can be established in the territory without its involvement.

“Without an alternative to fill the vacuum, Hamas will continue to grow,” International Crisis Group analyst Mairav Zonszein said.

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

“If only Hamas is left in Gaza, of course they are going to appear here and there and the Israeli army will be forced to chase them around,” said Navon.

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

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

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