Israeli officials have not yet said much about their plans for the Palestinian enclave. Foreign Policy magazine spoke to several current and former US and Israeli diplomats, news reporters, as well as Palestinian academics. All agree that future developments are uncertain. However, several scenarios can be constructed using the elimination method.
A selection of comments, analyzes and reports from foreign media
After 16 years in power, Hamas is deeply entrenched in the Gaza Strip. A number of experts therefore question the possibility of ever eliminating it completely. If it did succeed, the resulting power vacuum could cause another humanitarian crisis of unimaginable proportions.
The Israeli armed forces have repeatedly called for the evacuation of a million people from northern Gaza. At the same time, they warned that anyone who remains will be considered an “accomplice” of Hamas. However, it is often difficult for old, sick and infirm civilians to escape. Others fear that they will not return to their homes.
Is there only one Hamas?
According to an Israeli diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, “there is no distinction” between individual members of Hamas. He thus indicated that it would not be taken into account whether he belonged to the military wing of the movement or not.
Some Hamas representatives manage, for example, schools, hospitals or courts. According to the Palestinian Center for Policy and Public Opinion Research, there are roughly 60,000 such people.
“They are doctors, teachers, school principals, nurses or people working in social services. Why should the Israelis go after them?” asks the director of the think tank Khalil Šikaki.
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The magazine’s analyst also points out that it is questionable whether Israel can succeed in destroying Hamas as an idea. The movement, which arose in the late 1980s, is all about armed resistance and the destruction of the state of Israel, and is the second largest force in the Palestinian political scene.
Related to this is another challenge, which is represented by post-war reconstruction. Some Israeli right-wing lawmakers have come up with the idea of annexing parts of the Gaza Strip in which Israel abolished its settlements in 2005.
However, a number of high-ranking state officials have repeatedly made it clear that they do not want to reoccupy Gaza after the war.
Analyst Mackinnon argues that it is difficult to imagine a post-war scenario in which the Israeli armed forces would not maintain at least a short-term military presence in Gaza to prevent the re-establishment of Hamas or to stabilize the situation.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Israel’s military officials are already preparing the ground for a transitional scenario in which they would oversee security in Gaza. At the same time, Tel Aviv is considering reassigning part of the military units operating in the West Bank.
A coalition of Arab states?
In a longer-term perspective, the interviewed experts favor the possible role of a coalition of Arab states.
It would probably consist of the signatory countries of the so-called Abraham Accords, which normalized relations with Israel. The governments of these countries, with the support of the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, could serve as a temporary security and political force to fill the power vacuum after the fall of Hamas.
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But the former head of Israel’s domestic intelligence service, Shin Bet Ami Ayalon, adds that the longer and bloodier the Israeli intervention in Gaza is, the more difficult it will be to convince the aforementioned Arab states to cooperate in the future.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority, which has control over the West Bank, appears to be the most natural candidate to fill the vacancy left by Hamas. It was created in the wake of the Oslo peace process in the mid-1990s with the hope of laying the foundations for a future independent Palestinian state. But such a scenario has fundamental cracks.
Hamas pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza already in 2007. As the news portal Times of Israel writes, President Mahmoud Abbas said a few days ago that the Authority will be ready to take over the responsibility for the Gaza Strip after the war.
There is, however, the question of the legitimacy of her government, which is also faltering in the West Bank. Elections were last held there in 2005, and the overwhelming majority of Palestinians consider the self-government under Abbas to be corrupt and ineffective.
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Many analysts believe that the only long-term solution that will satisfy both Israeli security interests and Palestinian hopes for self-determination is a political solution to the conflict.
US President Joe Biden also again supported the peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state. But these hopes were moving away from reality even before the October attacks by Hamas. Support for a two-state solution has declined in recent years among both Israelis and Palestinians. But many still see it as the only viable way to resolve the age-old conflict.
“If we want Israel to be safe and not lose its identity as a Jewish democracy, this is the only concept. Otherwise, we will create an apartheid state and we will never be safe,” the analyst quotes former Shin Bet director Ayalon.
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