Gaza Strip: Which Government Can Bring Peace to Region?
14:20 02.11.2023 (Updated: 18:40 02.11.2023)
The conflict between Palestine and Israel has continued for more than half a century. The events of October 7 once again demonstrated the urgent need for a permanent resolution of the imbroglio.
US lawmakers have recently confirmed to the mainstream press that a multinational force, including one under the UN umbrella, is being discussed to maintain peace in Gaza once Hamas is defeated. "There are ongoing conversations regarding the possible composition of an international force," Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told American journalists.
Earlier, Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested that a "revitalized" Palestinian Authority (PA) could be tapped to govern the Gaza Strip after Hamas is ousted. Blinken noted that otherwise "there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region. It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance."
"Politics and strategy are about priorities and alternatives," Professor Meir Litvak, a leading Israeli expert on Hamas and principal research fellow at the Dayan Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University, told Sputnik. "If we don't want Hamas, we have to think of an alternative. Neither Israel nor Egypt wants to rule Gaza. Chaos may lead to the emergence of more radical organizations, so the PA seems to be the only viable alternative. It is the legitimate Palestinian government; it had ruled Gaza in the past. It is not ideal, but this is what we have."
Per Litvak, "restoring the PA will be the best solution and some movement in the West Bank toward establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel."
In fact, the PA taking the reins of Gaza would be in line with the 1993 Oslo Accords signed on September 13, 1993 by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) negotiator Mahmoud Abbas. The agreement facilitated the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip as a first step toward a two-state solution.
For his part, Dr. Shaul Bartal, a retired lieutenant colonel, argues that Israel should participate in controlling Gaza in one way or another.
"You need to understand what Hamas did on October 7, 2023, this is an existential threat to the future of the State of Israel," Bartal, a researcher at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Sputnik. "How can Israel ensure the safety and security of the half a million Israeli residents who live in towns, villages and kibbutzim around the Gaza Strip?"
In Israel's eyes, Hamas' actions are no different from those of Daesh* (ISIS), Bartal pointed out, referring to the Palestinian militant group's raids on Israeli civilian settlements, accompanied by rapes, beheadings and hostage-taking. More than 1,300 Jews were killed in the October 7 surprise attack
. In addition, Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist.
"Therefore, any solution to Gaza's future must involve Israel controlling Gaza in one way or another," the retired lieutenant colonel insisted. "It could very well be in a similar format to what is happening in the West Bank or something new. Israel can be part of a multinational force that will control the Gaza Strip and ensure peace and security for all, Israelis, and Palestinians."
According to Bartal, Israel's "reoccupation" of Gaza would be in the Palestinian and Israeli interest, paving the way for the Palestinian Authority to take the reins of the region and bring peace and stability to the Gaza Strip.
Will Multi-National Force Work?
At the same time, both Litvak and Bartal are skeptical about a multinational peacekeeping force under the UN umbrella.
"Israel's experience with a multinational force is not very good," the retired lieutenant colonel emphasized. "Israel has not been able to stabilize its border with Lebanon despite the presence of an international force there. Therefore, after Israel occupies the Gaza Strip, it will be possible to consider establishing an international force to control the Gaza Strip, but this is only if Israel will be part of it."
The UN force in Lebanon is a joke," echoed Litvak. "It is scared of Hezbollah and does not do anything. UN forces in Kosovo failed. UN oversight is a joke."
In 1967, the UN peacekeeping contingent in Sinai also failed to stop the Egyptian advance. In May 1967, the Egyptians forcefully removed the UN peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula, where they had been stationed since the Suez conflict. This action not only terminated the peacekeeping mission but also obstructed Israel's access to the Red Sea and marked the beginning of the Six Day War.
In contrast, the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) group, which monitored the terms of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt
and Israel, succeeded in maintaining stability in the region.
One has to keep in mind that the MFO peacekeeping force in Sinai worked well because both sides, Israel and Egypt, were committed to keeping the peace between them, Litvak noted. The situation in Gaza appears to be much more complicated.
What Could Happen Next in Gaza?
As the US debates post-war scenarios for Gaza, Bartal says three scenarios are likely as the Israel-Hamas war unfolds.
First: Israel occupies the entire Gaza Strip and establishes military rule with the help of local elements in the Gaza Strip, with or without the PA. The 240 abductees could either be released by Israel or killed by Hamas. This scenario would be a "clear victory" for Israel.
Second: "The war would stop in the middle," with Israel establishing control in the north of Gaza, while Hamas would control the south. Israel would begin negotiations with Hamas over the fate of the 240 abductees. In this scenario, even if a ceasefire is reached, it would not last long and fighting would resume along with border incidents, according to retired Lt. Col.
Third: Israel withdrew to the international border. A cease-fire agreement was signed with Hamas, and the 240 kidnapped prisoners were returned in a deal. However, this would be "a serious defeat for Israel," since nothing would prevent Hamas from starting a new war, according to Bartal.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is continuing its military operation against Hamas deep inside the Gaza Strip. Israeli troops and tanks are moving further into the Strip as Tel Aviv declares war on the Palestinian militants following the October 7 attack.
* Daesh (ISIS) is a terrorist organization banned in Russia and many other states.