The Day After in Gaza

The Israeli government has no plan. Its defense minister does.

NPR (“Israel has no plan for Gaza after Hamas rule, the Israeli defense chief says“):

Amid growing frustration in Israel over where the war is headed eight months in, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Wednesday accused Israel’s leadership of ignoring his requests to discuss a replacement to Hamas rule in Gaza.

“Since October, I have been raising this issue consistently in the Cabinet, and have received no response,” Gallant said.

His speech, broadcast live, is the harshest rebuke yet of Israel’s war strategy in Gaza from within Israel’s three-man war cabinet. It set off a political firestorm that could threaten Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hold on power.

The debate over the “day after” in Gaza erupted when Israeli military spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari was asked at a news conference Tuesday whether Israeli troops had been sent to retake areas of Gaza they had retreated from because there were no governing alternatives to Hamas. Hagari said a replacement for Hamas would pressure the militant group, but that it was a question for Israel’s political leaders.

Netanyahu then said in a video released by his office Wednesday that discussions about a “day-after” strategy are meaningless until Hamas is defeated, and said some of Israel’s efforts to replace Hamas are covert.

Gallant appeared to refute Netanyahu’s claims, saying no efforts were being made to establish an an alternative to Hamas in Gaza. He called on Netanyahu to declare that Israel would not establish civil or military rule in Gaza for the long term.

“The ‘day after Hamas’ will only be achieved with Palestinian entities taking control of Gaza, accompanied by international actors, establishing a governing alternative to Hamas’ rule,” Gallant said in his live speech. “Unfortunately, the plan was not brought for discussion, and worse, an alternative discussion was not raised in its place.”

In response, several hard-right members of Netanyahu’s governing coalition called for the defense minister to be replaced.

[…]

With Netanyahu failing to articulate a clear plan for replacing Hamas rule, several thousand Israeli settlers and their supporters — including senior ministers in Netanyahu’s government — rallied Tuesday for Israel to build Jewish settlements atop the ruins of Gaza’s destroyed cities, and to encourage Palestinians to emigrate.

The rally took place next to the Gaza border in the city of Sderot, as large pillars of smoke rose across the border in Gaza.

It was held on Israel’s 76th Independence Day, which Palestinians commemorate annually as the Nakba, or catastrophe, when many Palestinians were dispossessed of their homes and exiled in Israel’s founding war. Palestinians rallied this week in commemoration in parts of Israel and the occupied West Bank.

In a speech at the pro-settlement rally, far-right lawmaker Zvi Sukkot celebrated the immense destruction the Israeli army has wreaked on Gaza in the more than seven months of war, saying Israel’s enemies must relinquish land as a consequence of attacking the country.

Far-right Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir also addressed demonstrators.

“To be a free people in our country,” Ben Gvir said to a cheering crowd, referencing Israel’s national anthem, “is also to say to Biden, ‘Mr. President, this is ours. We’re going home to Gaza.'”

[…]

Netanyahu has said Israel does not intend to reoccupy Gaza for the long term or to resettle it, but he has also resisted U.S. calls for Gaza to be governed by a revitalized Palestinian Authority, a more moderate Palestinian leadership.

“In various Cabinet meetings and consultations, Netanyahu has talked about some kind of a self-rule by the Palestinians that will involve Arab countries such as the [United Arab Emirates] and Egypt, with some sort of an international coordination,” says Eyal, the writer. “He was very resolved to make sure that this would not include the Palestinian Authority or Fatah, which is the party that’s most dominant within the Palestinian Authority and is, of course, a competitor of Hamas in the Palestinian society. But he did not present any plan for that.”

Eyal Hulata, who served as Israel’s national security adviser under Netanyahu’s predecessor, Naftali Bennett, and is now a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, says, “Nobody’s talking about a two-state solution. We’re talking about a prospect of self-governance by the Palestinians, something that gets the support of the vast majority of Israelis. And Netanyahu, for his own political reasons, isn’t capable of saying that.”

WaPo (“As Hamas returns to the north, Israel’s Gaza endgame is nowhere in sight“):

It was last December when the Israeli military declared victory in the Jabalya refugee camp, saying it had broken Hamas’s grip on its traditional stronghold in the northern Gaza Strip.

“Jabalya is not the Jabalya it used to be,” Brig. Gen. Itzik Cohen, commander of Division 162, said at the time, adding that “hundreds of terrorists” had been killed and 500 suspects arrested.

Five months later, Israeli forces are back in Jabalya. Ground troops are pushing into the densely packed camp, backed by artillery and airstrikes — one in a string of recent “re-clearing” operations launched by the Israel Defense Forces against Hamas, whose fighters have rapidly regrouped in areas vacated by the IDF.

Israel’s fast-moving offensive in Gaza has given way to a grinding battle of attrition, highlighting how far it remains from its chief military aim — the complete dismantling of Hamas. As an adaptable militant organization that has easy access to recruits, an expansive tunnel network and is deeply embedded in the fabric of Gaza, Hamas has shown it can weather a protracted and devastating war.

The resumption of heavy fighting in the north comes as the IDF presses ahead with its heavily criticized campaign in the southern city of Rafah — long framed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a final battle against Hamas’s last intact battalions. Now, American officials and some of the prime minister’s fellow cabinet members are offering increasingly blunt assessments about the resilience of the militant group and Netanyahu’s failure to plan for postwar Gaza.

In striking remarks Wednesday night, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called on Netanyahu to make a public commitment that Israel will not end up governing Gaza after the war, amid mounting fears in the IDF that its mission is creeping toward reoccupation of the territory.

“Hamas might regain its strength as long as it maintains civilian control,” Gallant said. Failure to create an “alternative governing authority,” he said, “is equivalent to choosing between the two worst alternatives: Hamas rule or Israeli control of Gaza.”

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan sounded a similar note on Monday: “Military pressure is necessary but not sufficient to fully defeat Hamas,” he told reporters. “If Israel’s efforts are not accompanied by a political plan for the future of Gaza, and the Palestinian people, the terrorists will keep coming back.”

Netanyahu said last week that Israel has killed 14,000 Hamas militants; the IDF put its estimate at 13,000 last month. The numbers are not possible to independently verify — and no evidence has been offered to support them — but even the high-end figure would amount to less than half of Hamas’s estimated fighting force before the war. Thousands of other militants belong to smaller groups that vie with Hamas for local influence.

[…]

“It would be astounding for me if it wasn’t incredibly easy for Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza to recruit,” said H.A. Hellyer, a scholar specializing in Middle East security at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Royal United Services Institute.

While Hamas has been “significantly and substantially degraded,” he said, an organization that has been active in Gaza since the 1980s and governed it for more than 15 years is not going to “simply disappear.”

After seven months of bombardment and ground operations by one of the world’s “most powerful armies,” he said, “Israeli forces still haven’t been able to come close to victory.”

When Israeli troops withdrew from Jabalya last year, Hamas began a recruitment drive for jobs securing aid and setting up a new headquarters there, according to residents. “There is the presence of policemen, but without a police uniform, and they are all in civilian clothes,” said a 42-year-old Jabalya resident, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety.

Not only does the killing of innocent Palestinians make it easier for Hamas to recruit but the fact that the terrorist organization violates the laws of war by hiding among the civilian population and failure to wear identifying uniforms means that any escape outlet allowed for said civilians to escape the depredations of war likewise allow the targeted fighters to escape right along with them. All of which has been obvious from the outset.

As much as I disdain Netanyahu—going back to his first stint as premier in the late 1990s—he has no politically feasible options. It’s not just that he’s a hardliner and a jerk but it’s just about inconceivable to offer an end state for the war where Palestinians are better off than they were before. Israeli Jews would, quite understandably, see that as a reward for the October 7 massacre.

But, of course, failure to craft a better state of peace acceptable to both sides guarantees that killing will resume at some point in the future. WaPo’s David Ignatius (“This ‘indispensable’ Israeli leader has a proposal for ‘the day after’ in Gaza“) thinks Gallant points to a way.

It’s time for Israel to begin building a Palestinian security force in Gaza that can provide stability there after the political power of Hamas is broken, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a blunt briefing this week.

“The idea is simple,” Gallant told me. “We will not allow Hamas to control Gaza. We don’t want Israel to control it, either. What is the solution? Local Palestinian actors backed by international actors.”

Gallant’s frank comments mark a turn in the Israeli government’s debate about governance and security issues in Gaza, known by the shorthand phrase “the day after.” His views are widely shared by the defense and security establishment but opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition.

The defense minister presented these arguments to the Israeli public in a speech Wednesday, following our embargoed briefing Tuesday. This open, public campaign for a new approach to postwar Gaza that includes Palestinian security forces could split the Likud party, of which Gallant and Netanyahu are both members, and increase what has been growing talk in Israel and the United States that Gallant could be a future prime minister. Gallant said in his speech: “I call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a decision” and support “a governing alternative to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.” He said that “indecision is, in essence, a decision — this leads to a dangerous course.”

Gallant’s approach aligns with that of the Biden administration, which has been urging Netanyahu for months to start building Palestinian forces that can eventually take over security responsibility in Gaza. National security adviser Jake Sullivan explained the administration’s view in a meeting with reporters Monday. “Any military operation … has got to be connected to a strategic endgame that answers the question: What comes next?” Sullivan said. “We want an outcome in which the page gets turned.”

Biden administration officials say Gallant has taken a larger role in U.S.-Israeli dialogue in recent months, as relations have soured between Netanyahu and President Biden. One U.S. official described Gallant as an “indispensable” problem-solver in the increasingly tense debate about how to end the war in Gaza.

[…]

In January, Gallant released a public plan that stated his central point: “Gaza residents are Palestinian, therefore Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against Israel.” He proposed a multinational task force to help stabilize Gaza including U.S., European and Arab partners, with Egypt playing a special role as a “major actor.”

Gallant didn’t say so, but defense officials recognize that any new Gaza security force will have some links with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. As one senior Israeli defense official put it: “In Gaza, the color of the flag is either Hamas or the PA. There is no other option. We will have to build local forces, but they will look to Ramallah.” Israelis who take this pragmatic view share the American demand for a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority that is less corrupt and more efficient.

The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, is already assessing possible recruits for a Gaza security force from the more than 8,000 people there who are linked to the Palestinian Authority, Israeli and American officials told me. In going through the names, Israelis are asking “how many are too Hamas, too old or too dead,” one official explained.

Gallant said of his proposal to rely on Palestinians for basic postwar security: “This is not a perfect solution. I have been fighting Palestinian [terrorism] since 1976. I know the risks. But the other option is to have Israel or Hamas controlling Gaza,” which are both unacceptable, he said.

The bottom line is that “any military action has to end in a political solution,” Gallant told me. What I took away from the conversation is that significant new debate is beginning in Israel — and with its partner, the United States — not just about ending the war in Gaza but also creating stable Palestinian governance there after it’s over.

I’m highly skeptical that this plan is sellable to Israeli Jews. For that matter, Hamas is likely to reject it as well, either at the bargaining table or at the barrel of a gun later on.

At the same time, that “any military action has to end in a political solution” is axiomatic. That the Israeli government does not have an end state in mind beyond the quixotic “destroy Hamas” is more than a bit problematic.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. MarkedMan says:

    I’m highly skeptical that this plan is sellable to Israeli Jews. For that matter, Hamas is likely to reject it as well, either at the bargaining table or at the barrel of a gun later on.

    As you point out here, there are no strong leaders on either side that are looking for a peace short of driving the other side into the Mediterranean. And because this is a fight over land, the US has no stake in it other than to prevent Hamas, a terrorist group and an Iranian proxy, to increase their power. Biden is right to distance us from Israeli and begin the long term effort to push them out of the “Us” box and into the same place as Saudi Arabia or Qatar.

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  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    I’m skeptical it’s sellable to Palestinians. Who is going to volunteer to go into Gaza and tell the local Hamas commander that his services are no longer needed?

    You would need a credible military force, and in the Arab world who has an actual army? Egypt and Jordan. And of course the Saudis have their army of Filipino maids and houseboys. Palestinians armed and trained by Israel seems like a non-starter.

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  3. Kathy says:

    War is not only the military action. War is waged to achieve political objectives. It’s not that there should be a plan for what to do, and how to achieve it, after the fighting ends, but that such a plan is the whole point of the war.

    Seen this way, the US did not “win the war and lost the peace” in Iraq, but rather plain lost the war.

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  4. Stormy Dragon says:

    Netanyahu does have a plan: to continue destroying Gaza until the entire population dies or leaves and then annex it for settlement.

    He just can’t say that’s the plan so that he can pretend the ethnic cleansing was all just an unintended outcome and his water carriers can keep telling lies about how careful of civilians deaths the operation is and this is all just an unavoidable part of reality.

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  5. gVOR10 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: And that plan will save Netanyahu politically. After W allowed the only major terror attack inside the U. S., “he protected us” became a mantra and he was reelected.

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  6. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Netanyahu does have a plan: to continue destroying Gaza until the entire population dies or leaves and then annex it for settlement.

    In your fantasy where do all these Palestinians go? Gaza borders two countries: Israel and Egypt. Neither is going to take in a couple million refugees. Do you think Bibi has a different geography?

    It’s more likely that he’s planning an occupation, though that, too, is pretty close to impossible for Israel to maintain.

    The most likely answer is that Netanyahu doesn’t have a clue, but knows his political future is on the line, and knows if he ever tries to get off this tiger’s back, he’s finished.

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  7. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Whether other countries will accept them doesn’t matter anymore than it does to all the other flows of refugees in the world. If Netanyahu makes Gaza bad enough, they’ll try to get into other countries whether the host country wants them or not.

    And if they get rounded up elsewhere or die trying to escape, Netanyahu can just bite his lip and say how unfortunate it all is, but obviously he can’t be blamed.

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  8. Modulo Myself says:

    What’s the complaint against the PA? They’ve kept the peace on the Palestinian side while Israel has allowed its extremist settlers to run amok.

    And I find it hard to believe any Arab country is going to be willing to do Israel’s work in Gaza.

    Netanyahu’s bet is that pure fear of Palestinians (West Bank, Gaza, Hamas or just random person whose house some settlers want) and its blowback is going to keep him in power until he croaks.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    OK, look, Gazans cannot get into Israel, right? So the only land route out is Egypt. Early on Netanyahu might have driven them over the border into Egypt – indeed I worried he would – but Egypt has made it pretty clear that ain’t happening. Which leaves flying out to. . . where? Or fleeing by sea to. . . where? Cyprus takes a hard line on refugees. So, Lebanon? Syria? Turkey?

    Since October 7 approximately 20,000 babies have been born in Gaza. There is no realistic way in which a sea and/or air route would even keep up with the rate of births, let alone displace two million people. In reality Israel has told Gazans in Rafah to head back north, which is not the direction of Egypt, so it seems Israel is not going to challenge Egyptian sovereignty. And Hamas would surely do its best not to allow any of their human shields to escape.

    I’m quite sure the Israelis would be happy for Gazans to walk or fly or sail away, but I’m not seeing a destination, unless someone pays Al Sisi a whole bunch of money. And I don’t think even that would get him to let Hamas into Egypt.

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  10. Gustopher says:

    it’s just about inconceivable to offer an end state for the war where Palestinians are better off than they were before. Israeli Jews would, quite understandably, see that as a reward for the October 7 massacre.

    Given that there was no incentive for Israel to do anything before October 7th, and now it would be rewarding Hamas… when?

    Israelis have, by and large, treated Gaza as a problem “over there” that they can just put on the back burner and ignore for decades. Hopeless people turn to terrorism, to make themselves a priority. The only surprise is that it took so long for Israel to screw up security.

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  11. gVOR10 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In your fantasy where do all these Palestinians go? Gaza borders two countries: Israel and Egypt. Neither is going to take in a couple million refugees

    When people who must have a plan won’t tell you the plan, assume the obvious. On what basis do you assume Netanyahu cares where they go? Netanyahu likely assumes if he keeps up enough pressure Egypt will relent and allow them in, or Saudi Arabia will pay Egypt to let them in, or Biden will negotiate some sort of deal where we and various other states pay other states to take them in. In any case, Bibi’s problem is to make them go, not where they go. You may argue this won’t work. Neither would Trump’s plan to overturn the election. That it’s a bad plan isn’t proof it isn’t the plan.

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  12. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    No border is impenetrable. I can guarantee Palestinians are crossing into both Israel and Egypt every day, some as an end point and some as a point on to some place else.

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  13. Gustopher says:

    In January, Gallant released a public plan that stated his central point: “Gaza residents are Palestinian, therefore Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against Israel.” He proposed a multinational task force to help stabilize Gaza including U.S., European and Arab partners, with Egypt playing a special role as a “major actor.”

    Gallant is in fantasyland here. There are no “US, European and Arab partners” who are going to be jumping at the bit to help implement and police the reservation system that has been Gaza.

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  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    @gVOR10:

    assume the obvious.

    I do. The obvious is that Netanyahu does not know and is just kicking the can down the road.

    MBS and the Emiratis might well bribe Al Sisi – hell, they are already keeping him afloat – but a million people in refugee camps in the Sinai? That would be a very big ask of the Egyptian military. In the past countries like Jordan took in refugees, but that was back when people still thought those refugees would eventually return to the West Bank. And it was before Black September, which Jordan surely remembers.

    The US and the EU will agree to a trickle, but just a trickle.

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Well, there are apparently ~100 new Gazans every day. Are you imagining that there are more than 100 Gazans a day sneaking into Egypt to create net out-migration?

    I don’t doubt Netanyahu would like to see 2 million Gazans go somewhere, but the somewhere is still a mystery.

    ETA: It’s one of the ironies of this war that the best chance Gazans would have of escaping is if Hamas were destroyed. No one is going to accept refugees that include Hamas.

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  15. DK says:

    Netanyahu then said in a video released by his office Wednesday that discussions about a “day-after” strategy are meaningless until Hamas is defeated

    Incompetent.
    Incompetent.
    Incompetent.
    Incompetent.

    We’re supposed to support a country that has made this clown its longest-serving leader? We’re supposed to trust this terrorist-fluffing idiot to not engage in genocide or ethnic cleansing?

    Pfft.

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  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    Well, I didn’t have “MR pretends he’s unaware that human trafficking and unlawful migration are things” on my 2024 bingo card…

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  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DK:
    Yes, he is incompetent. And yet, he’s the most competent leader in the region – he has a half trillion economy, an advanced industrial base, an educated population and a capable military. Every other country in the region – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Libya – is either in the middle of a civil war, or a nation in name only, or a charity case, or a monarchy supplying the aforementioned charity.

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  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Once again: incapable of dealing with what I actually say, you build a straw man. You debate with all the honesty I expect of @JKB.

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  19. Raoul says:

    It is pretty obvious that Netanyahu has no end game just bomb and kill for the foreseeable future. What happens next is speculative. One thing for sure, Israel can continue the status quo of bombardment and limited food delivery for a long time and the current estimate of 30,000 dead civilians will easily double.

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  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    Did a bit of research. The cost to flee Gaza for Egypt is currently $5000 per adult, $2500 for kids. So, a Gazan family of four would need $15,000. As many as ~400 in this relatively wealthy group escape Gaza daily. To reduce the population of Gaza by 10% – if you don’t count new births – would take a year and a half. Assuming 10% of the population has that kind of cash, and assuming the Egyptians and/or Hamas let this continue. That is not depopulation, that’s just Honduras, and Honduras has not emptied out.

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  21. Gustopher says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I don’t want to defend MR, but what percentage of the population can sneak over a border during a war, when everyone is on the lookout? Just make a guess.

    Remember: These are short, well fortified borders, far easier to secure than our southern border (or our northern border).

    Let’s put that number really high at 25%. Impossibly high.

    Ok, you now still have 1.5M Palestinians in Gaza.

    Human trafficking and unlawful migration aren’t going to put a big dent in the Gaza problem. They may be large enough to create more problems elsewhere, but it’s not going to make much of an impact in Gaza.

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  22. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    And yet, he’s the most competent leader in the region

    And? Meaning what? Is being the least smelly turd supposed to be flex? Should we praise Charlie Manson for killing fewer people than John Wayne Gacy?

    Putin leads a country with a capable military, huge economy, rollicking industry, etc. So what?

    That an advanced, rich, educated, nominally-democratic country continues to be led by an incompetent freak like Netanyahu is actually a bigger indictment of Israel. We’d almost expect fanatical, failed government from a bunch of poor, uneducated rubes.

    Will no one rid Israel of this tiresome thug?

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DK:

    Is being the least smelly turd supposed to be flex?

    No, but it’s a pretty fair description of American foreign policy for, well, my whole life. We have always tried to back the least smelly turd. It may be in the Constitution.

    ETA:

    What’s Israel’s excuse?

    Oh, there’s no excuse. They’ve let religious fanatics run their country.

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  24. DK says:

    @Raoul:

    It is pretty obvious that Netanyahu has no end game just bomb and kill for the foreseeable future.

    Where does Chuck Schumer go to get his apology?

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  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We have always tried to back the least smelly turd

    Sure. But what does “back” mean? Carte blanche to do whatever they want and we continue to finance them and cover for them? Who did we do this for? We don’t do it for Saudi Arabia and we didn’t do it for South Africa or any of the South American dictators (although Reagan came pretty close there). What is it about Israel that is different? They are embroiled in a war to take the land from the West Bank and, now/once again, Gaza. It doesn’t matter that some members of the Israeli leadership only want to take Palestinian land in the West Bank while others want to take the whole shebang. Under either scenario we should not be helping them do it. And given that it has continued unabated since the successful assassination of Rabin, we should quit playing pretend that this is just a painful aberation and so we should continue to keep Israel in the “Special Relationship” category.

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  26. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: ” We have always tried to back the least smelly turd.”

    Not really. Frequently we have backed the turd who promises to let American-run multinational corporations loot their countries over any leader who suggest putting his citizens first. Iran and Chile didn’t just happen to become right-wing dictatorships — we propped up the Fascists to keep the money running.

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr:

    Frequently we have backed the turd who promises to let American-run multinational corporations loot their countries over any leader who suggest putting his citizens first.

    Isn’t that how we know which turd is the least smelly?

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  28. SKI says:

    Wow. Does anyone on this thread actually have any contacts or clue about Israeli public opinion? Because I don’t see any sign of anyone doing more than pontificating without knowledge.

    I’m highly skeptical that this plan is sellable to Israeli Jews.

    That may be because you don’t actually know any and/or don’t actually follow Israeli politics. The majority of Israelis want/expect that Israel will NOT re-occupy Gaza and recognize that the only ones that can/will are the PA.

    If you want to understand what Gallant’s comments mean and the context of why Bibi isn’t planning, take a look at Yair Rosenberg’s piece in the Atlantic,The Israeli Defense Establishment Revolts Against Netanyahu.

    BTW, Yair includes a link to an post 10/7 poll of Israelis:

    More than half of Israelis oppose annexing the Gaza Strip and reestablishing settlements uprooted during Israel’s 2005 Disengagement, according to a poll from the Hebrew University published Sunday.

    According to the survey of over 1,800 people, which was conducted on December 7-9, 56 percent of Israelis opposed such a policy in the long term, as opposed to only 33% in favor and 11% who were uncertain.

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  29. Andy says:

    I see the Israel Derangement Syndrome is in full bloom.

    As noted in other recent threads, the comments about Israel ethnically cleansing Gaza (or genociding it, depending on the day) are so stupid they don’t merit any serious discussion.

    Anyway, back to reality: After the war is over, the possibility of a post-war order entirely depends on the state of Hamas and how the war was ended. The whole criticism of Israel not having a plan for Gaza is both true and contingent on those factors. Let’s talk about some scenarios.

    1. By far, the most likely scenario, IMO, is that Israel and Hamas eventually get to a ceasefire agreement, and we return to some semblance of the status quo ante. Hamas maintains control of Gaza. Israel gets the hostages back. Lots of Palestinians died for nothing because of Hamas’ stupid war. Depending on how much Israel managed to weaken Hamas, maybe other factions in Gaza can finish the job, and someone else will take over. Maybe Hamas’ patrons decide Sinwar fucked this up too badly, and they shift resources elsewhere. Maybe the opposite, who knows. The important thing is that Israel doesn’t need a post-war plan because the post-war plan is the status quo ante. Ironically, many of the people complaining loudest about Israel’s lack of a post-war plan advocate, knowingly or not, for exactly this scenario.

    2. The far less likely scenario is that Israel beats Hamas enough that its fighting forces are largely destroyed, Sinwar and most of the major leadership are dead or captured. Hamas isn’t gone, but it’s destroyed enough that it can no longer effectively control Gaza, creating a power vacuum. So, what happens at this point? Well, here are the sub-scenarios:

    2.a – Israel declares “mission accomplished” and pulls out, declaring victory on their punitive campaign. They seal off Gaza as it’s really up to the Palestinians to figure out their leadership and governance issues, and Palestinians would never accept any Israeli solution anyway. Maybe Hamas reforms and comes back, maybe it’s PiJ, maybe something else. Israel doesn’t care; it builds a DMZ and tells Egypt it’s your problem now.

    2.b – The Gallant Plan. I can see why this sounds great to many Israelis – they don’t have to do a nasty occupation and don’t have a hostile government next door, but the reality is that everyone hates the Palestinians, nation-building sucks, so no one will take on this thankless task. Plus, all the countries best positioned to assist (like Egypt) would rather sit on the sidelines and have the world blame Israel for everything. There is no country that will help with this. There would be zero “international” in this effort, and so it would quickly become an Israeli puppet state, which would not last long or work out well at all. See again the part about people sitting on the sidelines pointing fingers.

    2.c – The Palestinian Authority Returns – The US would have to shove this down Israel’s throat, but this would be the “unification” of the West Bank and Gaza under the benighted leadership of the PA. What could go wrong? The PA is corrupt, has no ground game in Gaza, has no experience building institutions. In many ways this would be like the Gallant plan – the PA would need a LOT of outside help, but maybe what little legitimacy the PA has would make it more palatable. This is probably the least bad outcome, but still a really hard climb IMO.

    But to reach any of the #2 scenarios, Hamas has to be weakened enough to no longer be a significant security threat. If it’s still a significant political and military power in Gaza, then 2.a just becomes scenario 1. 2.b becomes even more of a fantasy, as no country is going to want to compete with Hamas to provide security and stability and get killed by Hamas fighters 2.c just means a repeat of 2006 where Hamas quickly kills all the PA people in Gaza.

    So, if you wonder why some of us focus on the importance of getting rid of Hamas as a first step, this is why. You’re not going to get any kind of united Palestinian action with Hamas in charge of Gaza unless you think Hamas is going to magically reform into some kind of progressive organization.

    But we must face realities, and the trend is very much toward scenario #1. I don’t see much opportunity for Israel to get anywhere near finishing Hamas at this point. They are currently surfing the line of trying to pressure Hamas as much as practical while not pissing off the Biden administration.

    The external allies they need are arrayed against Israel finishing Hamas. All the anti-Israeli people want scenario #1, whether they admit it or not. The international community wants that. Even the Biden administration admits that’s the reality. The fact that Israel has been in negotiations with Hamas for months suggests they at least understand that’s on the table, even if they can’t admit it publicly.

    So the question becomes how many more rounds will Israel and Hamas go before an acceptable deal can be reached and what will the terms of the deal be?

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  30. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    In your fantasy where do all these Palestinians go?

    The same places all those Syrian and Sudanese and Libyan refugees went, even though nobody wanted them and nobody “let them in”?

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  31. Andy says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The same places all those Syrian and Sudanese and Libyan refugees went, even though nobody wanted them and nobody “let them in”?

    If they could do that, they would have already left.

    I’ve been arguing for quite some time now that Palestinians ought to have the right to leave as all of those refugees did and have been told by many commenters here that they shouldn’t have that right based on the theory that Israel will not let them come back and they should suffer in Gaza instead.

    The borders are sealed. Egypt has its army on the border, and it expanded the wall and the buffer zone to ensure no one can get through.

    Israel will not let any Palestinians in because Hamas will use that as a vector for more attacks, and neither Jordan nor Lebanon will accept them in any event.

    There is nowhere for them to go.

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