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Israeli military leaders saw the dangers of lacking a plan to govern Gaza after the war.


As Israeli troops return for a second or third time from parts of northern Gaza to clear out Hamas and fight further south in Rafah, the Israeli government finds itself facing ever-increasing resentment from a key constituency: its own military leaders.

Current and former senior military officers are beginning to argue more publicly that Israeli forces in the war’s eighth month are being forced to fight again for the territories after the government failed to roll out a post-fight plan for Gaza, where Hamas fighters have once again emerged.

Two Israeli officials said some generals and members of the war cabinet were particularly frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s failure to develop and announce an alternative to Hamas to govern Gaza. .

Few officials or experts expected a new government to be formed amid the intensity of the fighting. But “clear, control and build” is a widely accepted approach to fighting insurgents. To a growing number of critics, it appears that Israel is simply stuck in cleanup mode, increasing the risk to Israeli soldiers and Gaza civilians while ceasefire talks remain deadlocked.

The two officials said Mr Netanyahu’s reluctance to engage in serious dialogue on the later stages of the Gaza campaign – the “second day” of fighting – has made it easier for Hamas to establish a presence in places such as Jabaliya in northern Gaza. Rebuild yourself.

Israel first attacked Hamas forces there in October and returned this week with another air and ground attack.

Much of the global criticism of Israel’s war has focused on the rising civilian death toll. But Eran Lerman, Israel’s deputy national security adviser from 2006 to 2015, said it also stemmed in part from “a lack of a coherent vision for the future.”

Some analysts believe Israeli generals should have asked tougher questions months ago.

“Hamas or similar groups are going to survive unless you start lining up the sun, moon and stars earlier to create counters,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at Carnegie. Something.” International Peace Foundation. “There’s no counter. That’s the problem.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls to end the fighting, arguing that there cannot be a civilian government in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed.Monday, on a Podcast InterviewHe said the territory first needs “the continued demilitarization of Israel” because “no one is going to come in unless they know you have either destroyed Hamas or are about to destroy Hamas.”

But as more analysts and officials Questions Israel’s ability to achieve such broad goalsThe stronger criticism from some in the military reflects growing differences with Netanyahu’s government.

Military officials, as well as the White House and others, have privately complained for months about the lack of a postwar strategy, but discord, both internal and external, is growing as the scale of the counterinsurgency operation becomes more apparent.

While Israeli strategists have always said they expect troops to return to some areas of Gaza later in the war to stamp out pockets of resistance, there is a growing sense that the situation is more difficult than it needs to be.

The two Israeli officials said that if Hamas has no alternatives to meet the people’s basic needs or provide hope for a return to normal life, Hamas could easily repeat its past mistakes or create new ones that would leave Israel in trouble. Fight harder for the Israeli army.

Michael Koplow, an analyst at the Israel Policy Forum, said military leaders “are frustrated by the military mandates they are given, but end up repeating themselves like Groundhog Day because larger strategic and political issues have not been addressed by the administration.” answer”. “If the military’s frustrations and the anxiety of military families become greater, it will compound the government’s problems and put greater pressure on the alliance.”

For Mr Netanyahu, political considerations include trying to unite the government with right-wing parties that have called for a full-scale offensive on Gaza despite U.S. opposition and are unwilling to support Arab demands as part of their offer of help. Prerequisites Gaza: The Road to the State of Palestine.

Coalition partners have threatened to overthrow the government if Mr Netanyahu strays too far from their demands, which could expose Mr Netanyahu to a series of corruption charges and lose his power as prime minister.

Dr. Lerman, former deputy national security adviser Recently published Other scholars at the Wilson Center have proposed a plan to create a multinational agency led by the United States, Egypt and others to manage and police Gaza. This information has been shared with Israeli authorities.

Other proposals include efforts to strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which currently governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but the Israeli government also rejected the ideabelieving that the authorities are not a capable and credible partner.

U.S. officials reiterated their argument over the weekend and Monday that without a diplomatic solution, Israel would face what the U.S. faced in Iraq and Afghanistan: a bloody war of attrition that would last for years.

“They will bear the burden of a protracted insurgency because no matter what they do in Rafah or leave Gaza, many armed Hamas will remain, as we believe they need to do,” state Gov. Anthony J. Blinken said over the weekend. “Then you have a vacuum that is likely to be filled by chaos, by anarchy, and ultimately by Hamas again.”

Former Israeli officials warned of a lack of postwar planning even before the ground assault on Gaza began. Israeli officials said the devastating Hamas-led attack killed about 1,200 people and triggered an Israeli military offensive. On October 14, a week later, former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called on the government to consider Gaza’s post-war future.

“Otherwise,” she said at the time, “we will be in unnecessary trouble and pay a heavy price.”

In an interview Tuesday, she said that’s exactly what happened.

“Imagine if we had decided on this before and started working with the United States, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia earlier,” she said, referring to the United Arab Emirates. “It’ll be much easier this way.”

Jonathan Rice and Gabby Sobelman Contributed reporting.

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