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Talking about the future of Gaza is based on an unrealistic assumption

December 1, 2023 at 5:07 pm

Residents and personnel conduct search and rescue works continue in the rubble of the destroyed building after the end of the week-long “humanitarian pause” in Rafah, Gaza on December 01, 2023 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

The Zionist entity state has not tired of presenting scenarios and options for the future of the Gaza Strip since the start of the ongoing war on 7 October. Despite its faltering, the battle has not yet been resolved, nor has it achieved a tangible victory on the ground.

The entity’s options and proposals range from security control, which includes Israel assuming full security control of the Gaza Strip, to maintaining an effective security force, which is a plan that includes Israel maintaining an “expensive security force” effective “in the near future” to prevent Hamas from returning after the war.

Perhaps one of the most prominent options proposed by Zionist officials was the option of annexation to Egypt, which Cairo rejected. Another option was rebuilding Gaza south of its current location. This would be instead of rebuilding in areas of devastation left by Israeli bombs, transferring some of its residents to other countries and leaving the rest in rebuilt Gaza.

Another option is the return of the Palestinian Authority (PA); an idea that Israeli decision-makers consider “bad” because it undermines the goal of the Benjamin Netanyahu government, which is to sever all relations with Gaza. This includes not sending Israeli water supplies, electricity or fuel, in addition to the option of an international coalition, which would involve handing over the strip to an international coalition, meaning handing over the sector to an international coalition, consisting of several countries.

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The Israeli officials considered the option of creating a huge artificial island off the coast of Gaza, where its residents would receive new land with effective infrastructure, and there would be no land borders between Israel and Gaza.

The US believes that the solution lies in deploying an international peacekeeping force, which would push Israel to end the war, while the Arab countries seem reluctant to discuss detailed plans regarding Gaza. It is currently adhering to calls for a ceasefire, taking into account that Israeli officials do not have much confidence in any external party entering Gaza, including the PA.

Disagreements exist regarding who will rule Gaza after the war and the role of the PA, in addition to reviving diplomatic efforts for a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state. It seems that this dispute will worsen in the coming months, especially since the US administration is concerned about an Israeli proposal to establish heavily fortified buffer zones in the north of the Gaza Strip to protect Israel from any future attack, thus reducing the size of ​​the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas movement is part of the equation, and even more so, part of the Palestinian people who have the right to determine the future of Gaza and all of Palestine. After what we witnessed of its cohesion in the war, no one can talk about the fate of Gaza.

Ceasefire ends in Gaza – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Therefore, any discussion regarding safe zones must include a permanent commitment to preserving the lives of civilians and ensuring the return of the displaced to southern Gaza after the cessation of fighting, while emphasising that all of Israel’s plans are difficult to achieve and to perpetuate its presence in Gaza is causing it enormous losses. It cannot yet resolve the battle on the ground.

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The occupation must realise that the problem is not Hamas but rather the Gaza Strip with its people, numbering more than 2,200,000 citizens, which opens the debate about what comes after the elimination of Hamas. If the matter is dealt with as Israel wants, then the complaint of this trend is strong.

It decided to doubt the possibility of eliminating Hamas, but if the occupation succeeds in eliminating it, which is not certain, then it has four options for the future of Gaza, two of which are bad and two of which are worse.

Re-occupying the Gaza Strip will have a high security, economic and political price, similar to what happened with the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Eliminating Hamas rule and quickly exiting Gaza will leave behind a vacuum that will soon fill the ground, resulting in dangerous security chaos.

As for restoring the PA to rule Gaza, it is an option that requires the Israeli government to get rid of the perception that the PA is a worse enemy than Hamas.

The first option that the Netanyahu government sought to implement with full US and Western support was to displace the residents of the Gaza Strip to Sinai. Talk at that time revolved around temporary displacement until Israel completed its mission to eliminate the Hamas movement. However, this option was met with a firm rejection of the issue of displacement by a number of Arab countries, especially Egypt and Jordan.

Perhaps the four Egyptian and Jordanian “noes” are the refusal to displace the population of the Gaza Strip, the rejection to re-occupy and administer the Gaza Strip by Israel and the denial of the Egyptian administration’s proposal for the Gaza Strip. The veto to enter NATO forces or any other foreign forces into it has forced Tel Aviv and Washington to rethink these options and leave the discussion of the future of Gaza to the decision-makers – the Palestinians – represented by the Hamas movement and the resistance factions.

Hamas will not disappear from the equation once the war on Gaza ends. Whatever its form in the future, Hamas will continue to play a major role in ruling Gaza and will be accepted by Arabs and Israelis.

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Another country that has benefited from Hamas is Egypt, despite the current regime’s hostility to the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Hamas is a branch. However, Cairo sees Hamas as a useful security actor that controls the border security with Egypt. Cairo will not easily accept an alternative to Hamas unless it comes with credible security guarantees.

The European vision expressed by the main countries of the European Union, especially Germany and France, was dominated by the trend towards the option of “internationalising the security management of the sector” and ensuring the elimination of Hamas by forming an international coalition to secure Gaza after the war, emphasising the option of a two-state solution and fighting Hamas within the framework of an international coalition.

The Israeli interior is witnessing a state of division over the future of the Gaza Strip, especially between members of the Israeli emergency government that was formed on 11 October, 2023, and members of the mini-war council.

On the one hand, members of the extreme right-wing coalition seek to link the objectives of the military operation carried out by Israel against the Gaza Strip to re-occupying it, returning it to its pre-2005 status and resuming settlement construction.

This is rejected by the security institutions and some members of the War Council, as this appeared from the statements of Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant as if he was suggesting the exact opposite regarding the future management of Gaza. He pointed out that after the end of the fighting in Gaza, Israel must end its participation in responsibility for life in the strip.

As stated previously, both Egypt and Jordan reject the Israeli vision of pushing the population of the Gaza Strip into forced displacement and displacement to neighbouring countries.

This Egyptian and Jordanian position quickly became an important input into the development of the international stance, which became more accepting of rejecting the idea of ​​forced displacement of Palestinians. This was especially the case after the Egyptian and Jordanian positions received strong Arab support, as expressed in the final statement of the Arab-Islamic summit on 11 November, 2023.

Finally, Arab resistance extends to many provisions of Western scenarios, especially with regard to the issue of assuming an “Arab administration” for the sector or forming an Arab security force. It is expected that Arab countries will refuse to be seen as an “occupying force”, which local Palestinians may also reject.

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This position was clearly expressed by the Prime Minister of Jordan Bisher Al-Khasawneh, who affirmed: “Jordan will not send any military forces to Gaza, and will not accept the replacement of the Israeli soldier with a Jordanian soldier.” In addition, this path has potential adverse effects on the peace treaties signed with Israel.

All of these scenarios will remain suspended until it becomes clear what the outcome of the military confrontation between Hamas and Israel will be, which appears to be prolonged, taking into account that the balance of victory is tilted in favour of Hamas and the Palestinian factions participating in the war.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.