US Ambassador warns Israel must have ‘post-war Gaza plan’

US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew said that the US government had been talking about post-war plans for Gaza for months [Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]

US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew said on Friday that the US government has been telling Israel that it must come up with a post-war plan for Gaza.

Speaking with Israeli publication Haaretz, Lew said, “We’ve been saying that it’s an important question for many months, we’ve spoken about this”.

“There’s going to have to be an ability for Gaza to be governed, and we agree it can’t be Hamas,” the ambassador said

“[Y]ou need to have a plan for what comes next. The Rafah crossing is indicative of that need to answer that question,” he added. 

Israel took over the Rafah border crossing at the beginning of Israel’s assault on Rafah on 7 May, which has since displaced 600,000 people, according to UN statistics.

As a result, the border crossing is closed, with Egypt refusing to operate the crossing from its side of the border without Palestinian control over the Gaza side.

However, Israel has refused to allow the Palestinian Authority to operate the crossing, the only other Palestinian political body able to do so, leaving humanitarian aid stuck on the Egyptian side of the border as fears of famine continue in the enclave.

The deadlock comes following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s broader refusal to allow the Palestinian Authority governance of Gaza in a post-war scenario, a plan that had been suggested by the US.

The lack of a post-war plan, which has placed the Israeli army in a cycle of entering and withdrawing from Gaza to fight Hamas, such as in Israel’s latest offensive in Jabalia.

This offensive was mentioned by Ambassador Lew, who said that like in Rafah, “There’s the same challenge in the north and centre of Gaza. You’re seeing it in the need for the IDF [Israeli army] to go back into places it has already left because Hamas is reconstituting”.

The strategy has caused a public rift between Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who said in a televised address that in order to defeat Hamas, there must be an alternative government in Gaza.

Gallant added that without such an alternative, either Israel would have to militarily occupy the enclave, an option he publicly opposed, or Hamas would survive to govern in Gaza.

Lew, whose comments came before Gallant’s speech, said that the rifts within the cabinet “made it hard to move forward in a constructive way”.

Rifts over post-war planning have also come from far-right sections of the cabinet, such as Itamar Ben-Gvir, who advocates for the displacement of Palestinians in Gaza and its resettlement by Israelis.

As well as commenting on Israel’s lack of a post-war plan, Lew also said that Israel had not crossed any red line regarding its ongoing assault on Rafah, and that although the US had delayed a weapons shipment to Israel, it was still providing the country with precision guided missiles and smaller bombs.

Israel’s war on Gaza has killed 35,386 Palestinians and wounded a further 79,366. Around 1.9 million people have been left displaced by the war, which has also left much of the enclave in ruins.

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