Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said several times in recent days that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) is the only force that can control Gaza after the war, signaling plans for a long-term military occupation.
“IDF forces will remain in control of the Strip, we will not give it to international forces,” Netanyahu said on Friday in a meeting with Israeli mayors of towns near Gaza, according to The Times of Israel.
Biden administration officials have said they don’t want Israel to “re-occupy” Gaza, but the US has not placed any conditions on its support for Israel’s campaign.
Israel occupied Gaza after the Six-Day War in 1967 and withdrew its troops from the enclave in 2005. But after Hamas came to power in 2007, Israel imposed a complete blockade on Gaza, which is still considered a military occupation under international law.
Netanyahu reaffirmed the comments on Sunday and rejected the idea of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers some areas of the West Bank, taking over Gaza.
“We need to see the following two things: Gaza has to be demilitarized and Gaza has to be de-radicalized. And I think so far, we haven’t seen any Palestinian force, including the Palestinian Authority, that is able to do it,” Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have looked to capitalize on the split between Hamas and the PA to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. “Anyone who wants to thwart the establishment of a Palestinian state has to support bolstering Hamas and transferring money to Hamas,” Netanyahu told a meeting of his Likud party in 2019. “This is part of our strategy – to isolate the Palestinians in Gaza from the Palestinians in the West Bank.”
Bezalel Smotrich, leader of Israel’s Religious Zionist Party and the current finance minister, has previously called Hamas an “asset.”
“The PA is a liability and Hamas is an asset. On the international playing field in this game of delegitimization, think about for a second, the PA is a liability and Hamas is an asset. It’s a terrorist organization. Nobody will recognize it, nobody will give it status at the ICC [International Criminal Court] and nobody will let them push resolutions at the UN [causing us to] need an American veto,” Smotrich said in 2015.