Israeli military leaders see danger in the lack of a plan to govern Gaza after the war.

With Israeli troops returning to clear Hamas for the second or third time from parts of northern Gaza, and also fighting further south in Rafah, the Israeli government has found itself facing more vocal discontent from a important constituency: its own military leaders.

Current and former senior military officials have begun to argue more openly that because the government has failed to present a plan for what follows the fighting in Gaza, Israeli troops are forced – in the eighth month of the war – to fight again for areas of the territory where Hamas fighters have reappeared.

Two Israeli officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid professional repercussions, said some generals and members of the war cabinet are particularly frustrated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not developing and announcing a process to build an alternative to Hamas to govern Gaza. .

There was little expectation among officials and experts that a new government would be formed as the fighting raged. But “clear, hold and build” is the widely accepted practice for fighting an insurgency. And to a growing number of critics, Israel appears to be simply stuck in eviction mode, increasing the risks to Israeli soldiers and civilians in Gaza while ceasefire talks remain stalled.

The two officials said Netanyahu's reluctance to have a serious dialogue about the latter stages of the Gaza campaign – the “day after” the battle – made it easier for Hamas to reconstitute itself in places like Jabaliya in northern Gaza.

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

Much of the global criticism directed at Israel regarding the war has focused on the ever-increasing number of civilian casualties. But Eran Lerman, Israel's deputy national security adviser from 2006 to 2015, said this also stemmed in part from “the lack of a coherent vision for the day after.”

According to some analysts, Israeli generals should have asked tougher questions months ago.

“Hamas or some similar organization will survive unless we start aligning the sun, moon and stars into something that creates a contrast much earlier,” said Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at Carnegie. International Peace Fund. “There is no counter. That is the question.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has resisted calls to end the fighting, arguing that there can be no civilian government in Gaza until Hamas is destroyed. In a podcast interview on Monday, he said the territory first needs “sustained demilitarization by Israel” because “no one will enter until they know that you have destroyed Hamas, or that you are about to destroy Hamas.”

But with a growing number of analysts and officials questioning whether Israel can achieve such a broad goal, the heightened criticism from the military reflects a gradually widening rift with the Netanyahu government.

Military officials, along with the White House and elsewhere, have complained privately for months about the lack of a postwar strategy, but the volume of discord is now rising both internally and externally as the scale of the counterinsurgency campaign becomes more visible.

While Israeli strategists have always said they expected troops to return to some areas of Gaza in later stages of the war to eliminate pockets of resistance, there is a growing sense that it is now more difficult than it needed to be.

The two Israeli officials said that without an alternative to Hamas to manage the population's basic needs, or to offer hope of a return to normal life, it is easier for Hamas to return to its old haunts or create new ones , making the system fight harder for Israeli troops.

Military leaders “are frustrated that they've been given a military assignment that ends up repeating itself as Groundhog Day, because broader strategic and political questions have not been answered by the government,” said Michael Koplow, an analyst at Israel Policy Forum. “If military frustrations and the anguish of military families grow stronger, it would exacerbate the government's problems and put even more strain on the coalition.”

For Netanyahu, political considerations involve trying to hold together a government with right-wing parties that have called for an all-out assault on Gaza despite American objections, and are unwilling to support what Arab countries have asked for as a prerequisite for their aid . in Gaza: a path to a Palestinian state.

If Netanyahu strays too far from the demands of his coalition partners, they threaten to overthrow the government, which could leave Netanyahu facing a slew of corruption charges without the powers he has as prime minister.

Dr. Lerman, a former deputy national security adviser, recently released a proposed plan with other Wilson Center scholars that envisions a multinational authority to administer and police Gaza, led by the United States, Egypt and other nations. It was shared with Israeli authorities.

Other proposals included efforts to strengthen the Palestinian Authority that now governs part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but the Israeli government also rejected this idea, arguing that the authority is not a competent and credible partner.

American officials over the weekend and on Monday reiterated their contention that without a diplomatic solution, Israel would face what the United States faced in Iraq and Afghanistan: a bloody war of attrition that has dragged on for years.

“They will be left holding the bag for a sustained insurgency because there will be many armed Hamas left no matter what they do in Rafah, or whether they leave Gaza, as we believe they must,” the Secretary said. State Antony J. Blinken said over the weekend. “Then a vacuum will be created, and a vacuum that will probably be filled by chaos, by anarchy and, ultimately, by Hamas again.”

Former Israeli officials issued warnings about the lack of post-war planning even before the ground assault on Gaza began. On October 14, a week after the devastating Hamas-led attack that killed around 1,200 people, Israeli officials say, and kicked off Israel's military offensive, Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister, called on the government to consider the post-conflict future of Gaza.

“Otherwise,” he later said, “we would be stuck there uselessly and at great cost.”

In an interview Tuesday, he said that was exactly what had happened.

“Imagine if we had decided this earlier and started working with the United States, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the Saudis earlier,” he said, referring to the United Arab Emirates. “It would be much easier.”

Johnatan Reiss AND Gabby Sobelmann contributed to the reporting.

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