If Israel ousts Hamas, what plans do the US, the West, have for post-war Palestine?

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli attack on homes in Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, November 2, 2023. —Reuters
Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli attack on homes in Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, November 2, 2023. —Reuters

As Israeli forces intensify their attacks against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, discussions are emerging about possible scenarios for the removal of Hamas from power.

These discussions have included diplomatic efforts at various levels, including Washington, the United Nations, and the Middle East region.

Some of the proposed options included deploying a multinational force to monitor Gaza after the conflict, establishing an interim Palestinian-led administration that excludes Hamas members, assisting neighboring Arab states in providing temporary security and governance. Including and even considering temporary UN monitoring of the area.

These discussions are still in an early, informal stage.

One of the most important questions in these discussions is whether Israel can successfully destroy Hamas, as it has vowed.

Additionally, there is the question of whether the United States, its Western allies, and Arab governments will commit military personnel to act as a buffer between Israel and the Palestinians.

This would mark a significant departure from previous reluctance to engage in such a role.

The situation on the ground is dire, with Gaza health officials reporting high death tolls, hospitals overwhelmed and thousands of Palestinians displaced.

The Gaza Strip, home to 2.3 million people, faces serious humanitarian challenges.

The ability of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to control Gaza in a post-Hamas scenario is uncertain.

While the US Secretary of State has mentioned the possibility of a “revitalized” PA, the PA itself has faced issues related to corruption and mismanagement. The complexities of the situation make planning for “the day after” a challenging endeavor.

According to reutersAny entity trying to establish control over Gaza after the war will also have to contend with the perception among Palestinians that it is beholden to Israel. Its offensive against Hamas has been launched in retaliation for the devastating violence of October 7, in which militants killed 1,400 people and took more than 200 hostage in southern Israel.

Even if Hamas’ leadership were toppled, it would be nearly impossible to eradicate pro-militant sentiment from the Gaza population, increasing the risk of new attacks, including suicide bombings, against whoever takes power.

Former US Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller said, “If Israel succeeds in crushing Hamas, I think it will be extremely difficult to create a governing structure there that is legitimate and functional.”

“The ‘day after tomorrow’ exercise seems hypothetical to me right now,” Miller said.

As Israel has expanded its air, land and sea assault on Gaza, the discussions have increased, but they are also fueled by what US officials see as Israel’s failure so far to make the end game clear. Are.

massive aid for reconstruction

There is a growing realization that the reconstruction of Gaza will require massive amounts of international aid, and that with Hamas still in charge it will be almost impossible to obtain such aid from Western governments.

Moments before leaving on a visit to Israel and Jordan on Thursday, Blinken said their meetings in the region would not only deal with “concrete steps” to reduce harm to civilians in Gaza but also issues of post-war planning. Will also discuss.

“We’re focused on that day. We need to be focused on the next day, too,” Blinken told reporters. The foundation of lasting peace, he said, is a path ultimately leading to a Palestinian state, a goal that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long opposed.

Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti

US officials have said privately that they and their Israeli counterparts have talked about learning lessons from Washington’s attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan and the subsequent lack of preparedness.

Options that US officials have discussed include the creation of a multinational force to maintain order. Its composition may include a mix of some European or Arab countries, although no government has openly expressed interest in joining such a force.

US President Joe Biden, who ended Washington’s two-decade military presence in Afghanistan in 2021, will be unlikely to engage in direct military action in a new foreign conflict as he seeks re-election in 2024.

Some policy analysts have also floated the idea of ​​deploying a UN-backed force in Gaza – either a formal UN peacekeeping force, as it does on the Israel–Lebanon border, or a multinational force with UN approval.

But diplomats say there has been no discussion at the United Nations about such a move, which would require consensus among the 15 members of the UN Security Council.

Such missions often face major obstacles. In October 2022, Haiti asked for international help to fight violent gangs. A year later the UN Security Council authorized a foreign protection mission, which was delayed by the struggle to find a country willing to lead it. Kenya stepped up, but Haiti is still waiting for the mission to arrive.

Complicating matters, Israel would likely oppose any UN security role, especially after Israeli officials rebuked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for saying that the October 7 Hamas attack was “not in a vacuum.” happened.”

Israel expects a long war but says it has no interest in recapturing Gaza.

regional umbrella

Outside experts, some of whom are known to occasionally listen to US policymakers, are considering what a post-war Gaza might look like.

If Hamas is stripped of its “veto power” and Gaza is demilitarized, “this could open the way for the establishment of an interim administration with a technocratic Palestinian-led government that will be able to operate under some form of international and/or international cooperation.” Or works under a regional umbrella,” he said. Dennis Ross, former Middle East negotiator and White House adviser.

The details, he said, will require a complex U.S.-led partnership with the Palestinian Authority and other key players interested in stabilizing the Middle East.

However, to make this work, Israel must limit the time frame for its military presence in Gaza otherwise any new governing body could lack legitimacy in the eyes of its people, Ross said.

An article written by Ross and two colleagues at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy proposed that once Israel withdrew, security in Gaza would be provided by “a consortium of those five Arab states that have made peace with Israel.” The agreements reached are Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco.”

But there is some doubt that such a system could be affected.

“Arab states will not put boots on the ground to kill Palestinians,” said Miller, a former negotiator who is now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

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