Source The Washington Institute
Media www.rajawalisiber.com – It’s not too early to think about the “day after” the war—even preliminary planning to create an interim administration will help clarify objectives for Israel’s leaders, sustain U.S. support, provide a more positive alternative future for Palestinians, and give Arab allies a rationale to play a more constructive role.
In describing the aims of Israel’s war against an organization that perpetrated the worst mass murder of Jews since the Holocaust, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared, “We will crush and destroy Hamas.” Precisely what that means in practice, however, is not clear.
- that would result from ending Hamas rule, so that destabilizing actors do not fill the void.
Given these needs and objectives, the following general principles should govern planning for the postwar situation:
From a U.S. perspective, Israel should leave Gaza as soon as the military task is complete and avoid reoccupying the area. At the same time, it would be a mistake for Israel to destroy Hamas and then leave Gaza as an ungoverned space without a clear sense of what comes next. With help from other actors, Washington has a unique role to play in ensuring that a plan is ready to be implemented once the IDF withdraws, such that Israel is confident about what will fill the vacuum of its departure.
The ultimate goal should be for the Palestinian Authority to return as Gaza’s legitimate government. Yet the PA lacks the will and ability to do that job in the foreseeable future—it does not want to be seen as reentering the Strip on the backs of Israeli tanks, and it is not in any shape to take on additional governmental responsibilities in Gaza given its failings in the West Bank.
Therefore, the situation demands the establishment of an interim administration to run Gaza until the PA is able to assume that role. The duration of this interim period depends on meaningful, substantive PA reform, without which neither local Palestinians nor international donors would have confidence in the PA’s ability to extend its authority to Gaza. Such reform would also have the crucial benefit of boosting the PA’s legitimacy in the West Bank.
Contours of an Interim Administration
Aproposed Gaza Interim Administration (GIA) should have three main components: (1) a civilian administration, (2) a public safety/law enforcement apparatus in which Arab state contingents play a central role, and (3) an international coalition for reconstruction and development.
The civilian administration of post-Hamas Gaza should be led and run by Palestinians. Under the leadership of a Palestinian “Chief Administrator,” the departments of a fully functioning local government—health, education, transportation, judiciary, social welfare, etc.—would be run by a mix of technocrats from Gaza, the West Bank, and the Palestinian diaspora, as well as significant local personalities from Gaza towns and clans. During the tumultuous interim period, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) could continue to provide existing food, health, and education services—no more and no less than in the past. Its long-term status could be reviewed in the context of the PA’s eventual return to the area.
Public safety and law enforcement could be directed by a consortium of the five Arab states who have reached peace agreements with Israel—Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco. Only those Arab states would have Israel’s confidence, which is essential for this effort to succeed. Special care should be taken to ensure that this is not viewed as an “occupation force,” which both the contributing nations and local Palestinians would reject. Instead, it should be presented and structured as a “public safety force.” To that end, contributing states should send police or gendarmerie detachments, not regular military units. Moreover, the force should be commanded by an officer from a country that has no territorial connection to Palestinian areas, such as Morocco. Liaison offices could then be established with the Israeli and Egyptian militaries, the latter of which would have a special role reflecting Cairo’s unique status as Gaza’s direct Arab neighbor. These offices would provide a forum for cooperation on border issues and the flow of goods and people.
International donors, UN and other international aid agencies, and international NGOs would work with the Gaza civil administration under the umbrella of a new agency responsible for repair, reconstruction, and development. This should be an Arab-run effort, perhaps chaired by the UAE, which is a peace partner with Israel, holds the financial resources to be a substantial donor, and has the global reputation and professional acumen to manage such an operation. This agency would oversee the immediate repair and reconstruction of utilities and other public works, as well as identify major projects, raise funds for them, and execute major project development. Billions of dollars would be needed for projects such as creating a new Gaza port and building new industrial zones to provide employment options. (Israel is unlikely to readmit Gazan workers anytime soon after some apparently played a role in the October 7 Hamas assault, either directly or by providing intelligence for the attackers.) Saudi participation in the repair/reconstruction effort would also be important for the plan’s overall success, and could be framed as part of Riyadh’s commitment to reopen a path to Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.
years—after which its operation should be open for renewal and linked directly to the process of PA reform. Two colliding principles are at work here: that “nothing is as permanent as the temporary” and that “it is better to get it right than to get it over.” The United States and other major actors will be responsible for finding the right balance in this regard.
These principles are not carved in stone. Rather, they should be viewed as springboards for serious discussion of governance in post-Hamas Gaza, and as ideas that will almost certainly morph in different directions with input from various international and Middle East actors and under the impact of events on the ground. With Israel poised to begin ground operations in Gaza, some may believe it is premature to focus on postwar architecture. Yet now is precisely the right moment to begin this exercise so that a well-crafted plan is ready once military operations transition to political outcomes. If key actors wait for the battlefield fog to clear before engaging on these issues, it may be too late.
Robert Satloff is the Segal Executive Director at The Washington Institute. Dennis Ross, the Institute’s counselor and William Davidson Distinguished Fellow, formerly served as U.S. point man on the Israel-Palestinian peace process. David Makovsky, the Institute’s Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of its Koret Project on Arab-Israel Relations, formerly served as senior advisor to the State Department’s special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.