The interim international governance plan for Gaza's 'day after'

The Gaza war presents an extraordinary threat to regional security. Any plan to end the conflict must ensure a better future not only for Palestinians and Israelis but all the peoples of the region.

Axel Rangel Garcia

The interim international governance plan for Gaza's 'day after'

President Biden’s endorsement on 31 May of Israel’s new ceasefire plan has changed the whole dynamic of the Gaza war. Most commentary since has focused on Hamas’s response as well as on proposal details rather than the significant signal of new Israeli thinking about Gaza within the proposal, including a complete Israeli withdrawal and permanent cessation of hostilities. This development sharpens the need for comprehensive planning on 'the day after', which has not yet been done in detail in Israel, nor has it gelled in Washington so far.

This author and other think tank and media colleagues have been working for months on a plan for an international presence in Gaza following fighting to ensure that Gaza can be helped back on its feet before local authorities, under some arrangement, establish a new government and security system promising peace to Gazans and Israelis.

This plan, discussed in May at a Wilson Center forum and available on its website, has been shared with Israeli and US government officials and Arab contacts. But before describing the salient elements, let’s look at what is new in the Israeli ceasefire proposal and how our governance plan could fit into it.

Complete Israeli withdrawal

The Israeli ceasefire proposal has not yet been made public; thus, what we know about the obviously bare-bones concept (reportedly four and one-half pages) is largely based on President Biden’s comments and various, at times confusing, Israeli reactions. But it is clear that Israel has, first, accepted a total withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, assuming negotiations succeed, at the end of Phase II of the proposal.

Second, Israel is ready to endorse a comprehensive reconstruction plan for Gaza in the following Phase III. This is a major development because up to the present, as President Biden acknowledged, some in Israel were hoping for a semi-permanent Israeli occupation of Gaza. Moreover, any major reconstruction plan would have to have Israeli buy-in, given its security concerns, control of several major crossings, and provision of services, such as water, electricity, and communications.

In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham, on Face the Nation on 9 June, just after meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, stated that an Israeli plan for Gaza reconstruction and governance in line with the ceasefire proposal would be coming. This tracks with other information this author is aware of.

Israel has, first, accepted a total withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, assuming negotiations succeed, at the end of Phase II of the proposal.

The plan we developed tracks closely with administration thinking, as laid out by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on 11 June, who suggested an "interim security enterprise and a governance enterprise" with Arab states playing a role in "stabilising and reconstructing Gaza. Our plan focuses first on forming a Multinational Authority to administer Gaza, which would report to an International Contact Group (ICG).

Mechanisms and legal bases

These two entities would be created by an international charter prepared together by the United States, Israel, Egypt, and other key Arab and G-7 governments. This charter will include a consultation mechanism with the Palestinian Authority (PA) and, if possible, would be "blessed" by a follow-up UN Security Council Resolution to the 10 May Resolution on the ceasefire. Other legal bases could be worked out in the ceasefire negotiations for Phase II in the Israeli proposal.

The Multinational Authority would be led by a High Representative and funded by Contact Group governments, as well as donations from other governments, and with its own teams for finance, security, transportation, ministry liaisons, opinion polling, and public affairs, with logistical support from Israel and Egypt and other nations. It would possess authorities central to its functioning, beginning with broad governance and security oversight.

The United States and other ICG governments would organise a multinational Policing Force under the Multinational Authority to carry out "presence patrols" until post-Hamas civil police and gendarmerie can be vetted and trained to take on policing responsibilities. The force would include a small number of American civilian officials and military personnel. Again, specific security arrangements would have to be worked out in negotiations for Phase II of the ceasefire.

The Authority would also be able to mobilise, coordinate, and unify activities of international, governmental, and non-governmental agencies and organisations involved in providing humanitarian, stabilisation, development, reconstruction, and other assistance to Gaza.

Centralised control is necessary both for security and to ensure the linkage of reconstruction and other international support with adherence to ceasefire provisions. An important lesson from Bosnia is the need for the interim governing body to have formal authority (as enshrined in the Dayton Accords) to leverage the provision of reconstruction and other services when population elements or local authorities block security, de-radicalisation or long-term stabilisation needs.

Finally, the plan contains detailed action items for each of these agendas and various others cited above. It is organised on a modular basis; those governments involved in Gaza planning have the option to pick and choose elements.

US presence might be required

On this, several issues (or almost any other plan for Gaza) leap to mind. First is the presence of US personnel, particularly military, given the Biden administration's commitment to "no US boots on the ground." Well, presidential commitments sometimes need to be broken. The US already has troops involved in the floating pier which used to be off the coast of Gaza, but has since moved to the Israeli port city of Ashdod.

This handout satellite image courtesy of Maxar Technologies shows the the US-built Trident Pier on the coast of Gaza on May 26, 2024.

Washington also has forces deployed in some 25 countries, some of whom ashore and afloat have recently come under fire. The reality from many conflicts is that no international policing organisation can function without both US support and at least some US on-the-ground presence.

Second is the role of the PA. The plan lays out areas—beyond the coordination between the ICG and PA noted above—where the PA would be involved, including paying salaries, financing services, and travel documents. In particular, concerning the PA's role in governance following the withdrawal of the Multinational Authority, further negotiations between all partners would be required.

Third is the disposition of Hamas. The plan itself does not discuss the role of whatever remnants of Hamas remain in Gaza. But neither this nor any other governance, security and reconstruction plan for Gaza will work if Hamas, with its anti-Israel agenda, remains in effective control.

In responding to Biden's discussion of the Israeli proposal, Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that Hamas must be defeated even under the proposal. In fact, the president also stressed "a better day after in Gaza without Hamas in power." Presumably, the political settlement within the ceasefire, which the president noted would cover the fate of, or commitments from, Hamas, all to be worked out in the negotiations for Phase II of the Israeli proposal.

While the above issues are, at this point, the most serious within a 'day after' interim solution, the extraordinary threat to regional security which the Gaza war presents requires all parties to expend extraordinary efforts and undertake significant risks in the quest for a better future not only for Palestinians and Israelis but all the peoples of the region.

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