Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Friday outlined the IDF’s three-step plan for the war in Gaza. The plan calls for the complete destruction of Hamas’s terror infrastructure and ultimately a transition of power to a Palestinian group—likely the Palestinian Authority—with the backing of the United States.
This plan, propped up by the United States during visits by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and President Joe Biden, aligns with the regional goals of the United States and in many ways is essentially a much larger, costlier version of Israel’s policy of “mowing the grass” in Gaza.
However, while bringing the P.A. back to power in Gaza may be a move that the West desires, it completely neglects the history of governance in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s withdrawal in 2005. Following the Gaza disengagement, the P.A. was placed into power by its backers in Washington and Europe.
It is important to note that the P.A., which is controlled by Fatah, the ruling party in Judea and Samaria, and led by Mahmoud Abbas, came to power with extremely low popularity ratings in Gaza. As such, elections in 2006 saw Hamas take over the P.A.’s parliament, a move that worried Fatah and its Western supporters as Hamas openly declared itself opposed to peace with Israel, openly called for the murder of all Jews and rejected Israel as a sovereign state.
Fatah tried to hold on to power but in the end, fighting broke out in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas in June 2007. More than 100 Palestinians were killed, many of them executed. Since then, there have been no Palestinian elections and Hamas has ruthlessly held on to power in the Gaza Strip, restricting everything from the press to how women dress, let alone political opposition.
Despite this, Hamas’s reputation in Gaza is positive, with most respondents saying in a number of polls, including a June 2023 poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, that Hamas is the most deserving representative of the Palestinian people. This is in line with polling that has found a majority of Palestinians support “armed struggle” against Israel, a euphemism for terrorism and a core tenet of Hamas.
The question, then, is why do Washington, Brussels and even Jerusalem believe that destroying Hamas militarily and as a political force in Gaza will eliminate the threat of terror there?
Hamas’s jihadist ideology is rooted in the Palestinian psyche as the solution to what they view as a brutal occupation by Israel. Even if Hamas is physically destroyed, it is reasonable to assume that another group with a similar ideology will take its place—surely the P.A., figuratively riding into power on Israeli tanks, will not find overwhelming support in Gaza.
Better yet, why has the West failed to come up with a better solution to the nearly two-decade conflagration in the Gaza Strip?
According to professor Eugene Kontorovich, director of the International Law Department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, it is “an insane strategy, because it is attempting to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
Kontorovich likened the situation to that in Afghanistan when, after 20 years, the United States left the country, only for the Taliban to quickly return to power.
“America is trying to force Israel not to govern in Gaza… Biden is trying to force his mistakes in Afghanistan on us,” he said.
Kontorovich called the idea that the U.S. could ensure a group like Hamas does not take power “ludicrous.”
He believes that Israel’s model for Gaza should be not Afghanistan, but the Golan Heights. Namely, Kontorovich calls for Israel to establish a buffer zone in Gaza populated by Israelis, which he said would simultaneously allow the IDF to maintain security there and also “demonstrate to Gazans that there is a permanent price” for aggression.
He is very much opposed to the idea that someone else should be responsible for security in Gaza, but also does not like that Israel is being forced by America to decide now what will occur the day after Hamas is defeated.
“The notion that you can’t fight a war of self-defense without knowing who will be in charge after is absurd,” he remarked.
David M. Weinberg, a Senior Fellow at the Misgav Institute for National Security and Zionist Strategy, agrees with this sentiment. Israel is “exempt from considering the day after in Gaza,” he said. At the moment, “it isn’t Israel’s problem,” he added.
According to Weinberg, the focus should be on the strategy of the war, not the “exit strategy. Our issue is ensuring security for Israel; meaning there will be no more security threats from Gaza, now and after the war.”
However, it currently appears as though the Israeli government is indeed attempting to set a post-war strategy, even as it prepares for a ground war in the Gaza Strip.
It can only be hoped that the strategy it adopts does not lead to more violence in the future.
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