newsU.S.-Israel Relations

Gallant: Israel committed to hostage deal despite Hamas rejection

Only local Palestinians can govern Gaza in the future, “it cannot be Israel and it cannot be Hamas,” the Israeli defense minister said.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on June 25, 2024. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on June 25, 2024. Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images.

Speaking to reporters at a press briefing in Washington, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that the Jewish state stands firmly behind the ceasefire-for-hostage deal that U.S. President Joe Biden described in a televised address in May.

“The State of Israel, the defense establishment—we are all committed to and firmly backing the president’s deal,” Gallant said. “We stand together with the rest of the world on this issue.”

Gallant briefed members of the D.C. press corps on Tuesday. His remarks were embargoed until Wednesday evening.

Gallant alluded to the ongoing, highly public spat between Jerusalem and Washington over whether the Biden administration is slow-walking arms deliveries to the Jewish state.

Friendly countries should settle such disputes privately, according to the Israeli minister.

“I believe that allies must do everything to solve issues in closed rooms,” Gallant said. “This is what I’m trying to do and have been doing during my visit. During the meetings we made significant progress, obstacles were removed and bottlenecks were addressed, in order to advance a variety of issues and more specifically the topic of force build-up and supply of munition.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video on June 18 in which he said that “in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.” 

White House officials responded that they didn’t know what Netanyahu was talking about. Other than the pause of a previously-acknowledged, single delivery of 2,000-pound bombs, U.S. arms shipments to Israel are proceeding normally, the U.S. officials claimed.

Gallant also told reporters in Washington about the situation along Israel’s northern border, where rocket fire from the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah has forced Israel to evacuate tens of thousands of citizens and depopulate entire towns.

The Israeli defense minister said he had met twice this week with Amos Hochstein, the U.S. special presidential coordinator for global infrastructure and energy security who has been the Biden administration’s point man on negotiations with Lebanon and, via intermediaries, Hezbollah.

“We have eliminated over 400 Hezbollah terrorists over the past months,” Gallant said. “Hezbollah understands very well that we can inflict massive damage in Lebanon if a war is launched.”

“We do not want war, but Hezbollah is playing a dangerous game and we will not tolerate attacks on our citizens, and tens of thousands of Israelis displaced from their homes,” he said. 

“The goal is to bring our citizens back home safely,” Gallant added. “We prefer to do it via understandings, but we are preparing for every possible scenario.” 

“We have the ability to take Lebanon back to the stone age, but we don’t want to do it,” he said.

Gallant also addressed Israel’s plans for Gaza.

“The only solution for the future of Gaza is governance by local Palestinians,” he said. “It cannot be Israel and cannot be Hamas.”

“I have been working on a day-after proposal that has three levels and includes regional partners, the United States, and, of course, local Palestinian actors,” the defense minister said. “It is a long and complex process that depends on many things, including the international community, which must participate and not only criticize.”

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