Five scenarios for Gaza's 'day after'

A complete Israeli withdrawal, followed by a feasible reconstruction plan, temporary government, and a pathway to a Palestinian state, would be the best scenario to reach permanent peace

Nash Weerasekera

Five scenarios for Gaza's 'day after'

The key question that should be discussed now is finding the right solution for Gaza after the conflict. A correct answer will guide the entire region in the right direction. However, a wrong decision, God forbid, could lead to serious consequences, not only for Gaza and the Palestinian cause but for the whole region and possibly beyond. Some Western groups refer to the situation in Gaza after the war as 'the day after', but key Palestinian voices have been notably absent from the heated discussions for various reasons.

One concern is that many Western research centres assert their expertise on the Palestinian situation or comparable contexts like Gaza. So far, their endeavours demonstrate no encouraging signs, indicating a deliberate mix-up or a concerted effort to advocate for stupid and even impractical Israeli positions, regardless of Palestinian interests. These responses neglect the necessity of establishing a unified Palestinian economic, social, and political structure—essential for supporting an independent Palestinian state and achieving stable peace with Israel.

This article does not address the evident requirements for the physical and social reconstruction of Gaza. Instead, it aims to explore various scenarios, including those that could fail, to understand the reasons for their failure. Through this examination, the article seeks to lay the groundwork for a feasible and implementable solution, even if it necessitates some degree of modification or adjustment. Five primary scenarios are outlined, each with potential sub-scenarios stemming from them.

West Bankification of Gaza

The first scenario entails the sustained presence of the Israeli military in different capacities, potentially involving the establishment of a civil or local Palestinian administration. This mirrors Israel's actions following the occupation of the West Bank, which led to the establishment of settlements and the influx of settlers, and to the failure to implement the Oslo Accords and subsequent attempts to reverse them.

This approach aligns with other right-wing proposals, such as establishing a buffer zone around the Gaza Strip, constructing thoroughfares to facilitate military control, the desperate notion of forcibly relocating residents, or even reintroducing Israeli settlements within the Gaza Strip. The crux of this scenario involves some form of reoccupation of Gaza, a notion deemed foolish for multiple reasons.

Not only does it run counter to the prevailing political climate and the imperative of seeking a viable political solution, but it also presents practical challenges beyond Israel's capacity to address. Such a move would likely provoke sustained conflict and the development of resistance movements, necessitating a substantial military presence and considerable administrative resources.

Additionally, Israel would grapple with the daunting task of addressing the widespread devastation in Gaza and providing the requisite resources for its reconstruction, which is something it is neither able nor willing to do. Furthermore, any Palestinian aligning with this vision would likely be perceived as a collaborator and could face significant personal risk.

A general view of the destruction in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza City.

Moreover, this scenario would precipitate profound internal political discord within Israel and exacerbate tensions with the international community, even if Israel's intention were to maintain a temporary presence. Notably, almost all of Israel's allies counsel against pursuing this course of action.

Multinational force

The second scenario entails the deployment of a multinational force tasked with upholding security and stability in Gaza while advancing the political interests of participating nations. A key objective would be to prevent Hamas from rearming and rebuilding its military capabilities. This concept could potentially involve the establishment of a political entity representing some contributing countries, possibly enlisting select Palestinian entities or individuals to collaborate with the multinational entity or force.

There could be an effort to secure a mandate from the UN Security Council for this force, although the likelihood of success is low. Even if obtained, such a mandate would differ from that of a UN peacekeeping force, as the latter typically refrain from combat.

The feasibility of establishing such a force is questionable at best. It appears to hinge on the direct involvement of the United States, a prospect that US political leadership has consistently rejected. Many Palestinians and a significant portion of Arab populations may perceive this force as another manifestation of Israeli occupation, albeit in a diluted form, potentially leading to armed resistance against it.

Partial Hamas governance

The third scenario involves the persistence of some degree of Hamas governance in Gaza, perhaps with partial legitimacy. However, it is challenging to envision Israel, the United States, or Western nations in general acquiescing to this arrangement. Even regional countries may be hesitant to accept such an idea. Consequently, this scenario appears to lack realistic feasibility.

Return of the PA

The fourth scenario entails the official return of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to governance in Gaza with external backing. There have already been signs of certain security agencies’ preparedness for such an eventuality. Nevertheless, the present Israeli government opposes this scenario despite maintaining the presence of Abbas in the occupied West Bank. This opposition persists despite recent shifts and the efforts of some right-wing ministers to weaken the PA and annex the West Bank. The government's stance reflects its view that this move would represent a significant stride towards Palestinian statehood and independence.

While this solution may appear rational at first glance, particularly with external support, it encounters two significant hurdles. Firstly, the existing Palestinian Authority (PA) lacks the capacity to efficiently govern Gaza and do the job required there. Secondly, Hamas and its allies in Gaza are likely to oppose the notion, anticipating a stringent crackdown by the PA, possibly aiming for their elimination, even on political grounds. Furthermore, there is widespread public resistance in Gaza towards the PA, coupled with animosity towards its leadership in Ramallah.

A scenario in which Israel maintains a military presence in Gaza would precipitate profound internal political discord within Israel and exacerbate tensions with the international community

Complete Israeli withdrawal

With the probable failure of the four primary scenarios, it becomes imperative to contemplate a fifth solution—one that acknowledges the realities and fundamental stances of the main stakeholders and fosters advancement after addressing the prevailing challenges in Gaza. This solution is not a panacea, but it entails crucial prerequisites.

Firstly, a comprehensive Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is imperative, facilitating substantial international endeavours for the region's reconstruction. Such a withdrawal would necessitate a fair exchange agreement enabling the return of detainees.

Secondly, there's a need for the establishment of a competent, corruption-free governance and administrative framework in Gaza, distinct from but linked to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This mechanism should exclude direct involvement from Hamas or other factions, yet it should not be perceived as antagonistic by Hamas. Additionally, it should initiate the development of a new Palestinian security apparatus.

The third requisite is the presence of a temporary security force, preferably Arab, which would not govern Gaza but rather coordinate with and support the Palestinian administrative mechanism and security apparatus. This Arab presence is contingent upon the first requirement of Israeli withdrawal and aligns with the fourth requirement of a mutually agreed political framework. This framework includes the establishment of an independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, accompanied by mutual recognition between this state and Israel within a defined timeframe.

This solution for Gaza is inherently intertwined with a broader political resolution rooted in the two-state paradigm, comprising a Palestinian and an Israeli state. Moreover, convening an international donors conference for Gaza's reconstruction is imperative to ensure broad participation and efficient execution. The international community can devise mechanisms to oversee and assess the progress without undermining its national character.

Of course, implementing this fifth scenario demands the capability to interconnect all essential components, requiring substantial influence and a comprehensive understanding among the involved parties, along with attaining a degree of satisfaction among them. However, it is apparent that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government are unlikely to endorse this solution.

Netanyahu's inclination to prolong the conflict for self-preservation, coupled with his government's opposition to the sole feasible political resolution, obstructs the advancement of this approach. The unfolding developments will be closely observed, particularly following President Biden's personal engagement in efforts to halt the conflict and broker an exchange deal.

**This is a direct translation of the original article written in Arabic**

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