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Israel's Defense Minister Opposes Displacement of Gaza—Plays a Nasty ‘Soft Cop’

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. Credit: U.S. Secretary of Defense

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a Jan. 29 report in Axios which cited four unnamed U.S. and Israeli officials, told U.S. officials last week that he wouldn’t allow Israeli settlements to be built in Gaza. This is reported as a bulwark against the galvanized “settlers’ movement” and their plans to inhabit Gaza.

Gallant’s Israel Defense Forces have been leveling Palestinian homes within 1 km of the Israeli border, as part of the establishment of a buffer zone carved out of Gaza, which the IDF plans to occupy. A U.S. official said that the Biden administration is not onboard with even a temporary buffer zone, believing that Israel will make the zone a permanent one. These concerns were expressed during a meeting between Gallant and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew and U.S. envoy for humanitarian affairs David Satterfield, Axios reported. There, Gallant assured them that the buffer zone was only temporary, was only for security purposes, and would not be used by settlers to get a foot in the door.

Separately, before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee today, Gallant explained his Gaza policy: “After the war, when it’s over, I think it’s completely clear that Hamas won’t control Gaza. Israel will control [it] militarily but won’t control it in a civilian sense.” It will be similar to the way the West Bank has been run, but on steroids. Gallant explained that the example of the assassination of three Palestinians in Jenin this morning was the way his “military freedom of operation” would be applied in Gaza.

Gallant was referring to the IDF sending a team of special forces soldiers into the Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin to assassinate Mohammed Jalamneh. The IDF explained that their victim “had recently been involved in promoting significant terrorist activity and was hiding in the Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin.” The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the IDF special forces had infiltrated the hospital, gathered on the 3rd floor, where they killed Jalamneh along with two brothers. In this example, Gallant explained: “This is military freedom of operation at the highest level, and yet we don’t control the area in a civilian sense. This is achievable” also in Gaza.

So, the hard cop “Greater Israel” gang in Netanyahu’s coalition says, drive all the Palestinians out, while the soft cop gang says, Palestinians are welcome to come live in our armed camp.