Why Israel Struggles to Plan for the Day after the War

Yesterday, a Qatari newspaper reported that Washington has agreed to an IDF operation against the Hamas stronghold of Rafah in exchange for Israel’s abstention from retaliation against Iran. Such reports must always be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism, but regardless of the truth of this one, the war in Gaza will come to an end somehow, and Israel will then have to determine how the Strip should be administered afterward. Robert Silverman takes a look at this most difficult problem, and the domestic political considerations that make it even thornier:

The current governing coalition wouldn’t be able to agree on any postwar plan whereby Israel relinquishes even partial control, so the issue is left off of cabinet agendas. Key members of the cabinet, especially Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, want Israel to remain in Gaza permanently, as do elements within Benjamin Netanyahu’s own Likud party.

Given the ability of this issue to split the governing coalition wide open, dissolve the government, and lead to elections in the midst of a war, Netanyahu has decided not to bring it before the cabinet. . . . This highlights a general weakness of parliamentary systems like Israel’s.

Moreover, writes Silverman, the Israeli national-security bureaucracy is averse to the kind of the planning necessary for resolving Gaza’s fate. He suggests what an acceptable postwar approach might look like:

The Palestinians have a legitimate interest in a political future independent of Israel. Israel has a legitimate interest in the security conditions of a hostile Gazan neighbor located less than 40 miles from its largest city. The workable solution is for Israel to negotiate with the U.S. over the conditions of its transfer of authority in Gaza to a U.S.-led multinational body, a transfer in which it keeps sufficient ability to intervene in Gaza when needed to protect its security and in which it provides assurances of a Palestinian political horizon, also subject to governance conditions.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict