Israel unveils plan for complete control of Gaza after war with Hamas

Friday, February 23, 2024
 – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally unveiled Israel’s plans for Gaza after hostilities ended in the enclave, submitting to his war cabinet a formal proposal that directly contradicts the objectives of the US.

The one-page document, released overnight by his office, makes no mention of any role for the Palestinian Authority, the West Bank-based opponents of Hamas that the US administration wants to see take over control, and rejects unilateral international steps towards recognition of a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu's proposition also foresees a sizeable security buffer within the besieged enclave, an outcome the US opposes.

Appealing to his domestic rightwing political base, the document entitled “The Day After Hamas Principles” is the first official distillation of Netanyahu’s prior statements on the issue.

Dividing Gaza’s future into near, medium and long-term phases, the document makes clear that Israel will continue its long-running blockade of the territory, and intends to remain involved in civilian issues, from how the local police operate and what the schools and mosques teach in the predominantly Sunni Muslim territory.

In practice, it could see a full-scale resumption of Israel’s control of the enclave and its 2.3mn population, combining elements of its decades-long occupation with the punishing blockade that was instituted two years after the 2005 disengagement, when the Israeli military pulled out of Gaza.

In the medium term, Israel will build a “security area” within the Gaza Strip, running along its entire border. It also intends to build an over- and underground “security flank” or barrier along its border with Egypt to prevent weapons smuggling, and enforce land, sea and air control over the strip, the document said.

Israel will only allow weapons required “to maintain public order”, an opaque reference to a police force that has largely vanished after being targeted by Israeli air strikes, resulting in a chaotic law and order situation that has forced humanitarian organisations to curtail aid deliveries.

It said that in the civilian sphere, Israel will only allow “local actors with management experience” to enforce public order.”

The US, Israel’s closest ally, and the EU have been pushing a different postwar plan. It wants the relatively secular Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, to take over control, setting the grounds for talks that would likely lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

A Spokesperson for Abbas told the Wafa news service that “Netanyahu’s proposed plans aim to perpetuate Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State”.

“Gaza will only be part of the independent Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its Capital,” they said.

Netanyahu released the plan around the visit to Israel of Brett McGurk, the US Middle East envoy. The US has yet to publicly comment on the document.

The war has already claimed the lives of at least 29,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to local health authorities, and the wide-scale destruction of Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. The total death toll is estimated to be far higher, with thousands buried in the rubble.

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