Netanyahu’s Growing Rift With Israel’s Military Raises Questions About Gaza War’s Future


But the most important concern for the Israeli military, analysts said, is ensuring that hard-won tactical gains against Hamas, which had governed Gaza since 2007, did not go to waste. For that, Admiral Hagari said, there had to be an alternative to Hamas in Gaza.

For now, Mr. Netanyahu has sought to avoid making a decision on how to govern the enclave after the fighting stops. The United States and other allies have said the Palestinian Authority, which oversees parts of the occupied West Bank, should ultimately take charge in Gaza, while the far-right coalition partners on whom Mr. Netanyahu’s political survival depends support permanent Israeli rule in Gaza.

As a result, buffeted between competing pressures, Mr. Netanyahu has mostly said no. He has ruled out both a Palestinian Authority administration and new Israeli settlements in Gaza, and has vowed to keep up the assault until Hamas is destroyed. He has said little about who will ultimately take responsibility for the enclave’s 2.2 million residents.

General Shamni said Admiral Hagari’s remarks seemed aimed at pressuring Mr. Netanyahu to take a position. “You have to decide, tell us what you want,” General Shamni said. “You don’t want the Palestinian Authority, OK. Tell us what you want instead. A military administration? They’re not even saying that much.”

“The government as a whole has no stance,” he added.

Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defense minister, said last month that Mr. Netanyahu’s inability to make a clear-cut choice was moving Israel inexorably toward two unappealing outcomes: either an Israeli military regime in Gaza or Hamas eventually returning to power.

“We will pay in blood and many victims, for no purpose, as well as a heavy economic price,” Mr. Gallant said in a televised speech.

In the meantime, Palestinians in Gaza face rising anarchy. There are no police to enforce law and order, and public services like trash collection barely exist. In southern Gaza, thousands of tons of humanitarian aid have been stranded on the Gaza side of the main Israeli border crossing because aid groups say it is too dangerous to distribute the goods.

Israeli military leaders are increasingly worried that they might be asked to shoulder that burden, said Amir Avivi, a retired Israeli brigadier general who chairs a hawkish forum of former security officials. “That is the last thing they want,” General Avivi said, although he personally supports long-term Israeli control there.

Some believe that the war’s aims have been achieved as much as possible and are eager to wind down the campaign in Gaza and turn their focus to rising tensions with Hezbollah, the Lebanese armed group, said General Avivi.



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