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What’s next in Gaza? A deal, a dream or endless guerilla war

Israel’s war in Gaza is winding down as focus shifts to fighting Hezbollah in the north, but neither the fate of the hostages nor the future of Gazans is clear.
TJI Wrap
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shirtless boy pouring water over himself

A displaced Palestinian boy is cooling himself with water outside his tent during a heat wave in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip (Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Published: 4 July 2024

Last updated: 4 July 2024

What would a better Israeli prime minister do? (Bret Stephens, NY Times, paywall)

A better Israeli prime minister would declare the following policy on a Palestinian state: Israel’s government will work toward one that looks like Costa Rica or the United Arab Emirates. It will oppose and obstruct one that is likely to look like Yemen or Afghanistan. If the character of a Palestinian state would be moderate, not militant, committed to the prosperity of its people, not to the destruction of its neighbors, then the likelihood of its creation would be far greater.

A better Israeli prime minister would create long-term safe zones within Gaza — at least while Israel remains in the territory — for women, children, the elderly and the sick. These would be monitored and financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development and its European counterparts, open to foreign journalists, and well provided with food, shelter and medicine. The zones would alleviate humanitarian distress, put fewer civilians in harm’s way, end the constant displacement of Gazans from one part of the territory to another, simplify Israel’s efforts to strike terrorists, and deprive Hamas of some of its frequent propaganda victories in the battle of images.

A better Israeli prime minister would offer a postwar vision for Gaza: No Israeli occupation of any part of the territory in exchange for a 10-year Arab mandate for Gaza. It would be led by Arab states that have diplomatic relations with Israel, preferably including Saudi Arabia, with the goal of providing Gazans with security and governance while ensuring that Hamas does not remain in power. Norway, Ireland, Spain and other governments that recognise Palestinian statehood should put their money where their mouths are by providing reconstruction assistance. If it succeeds, it can become a model for the West Bank.

Israel's next headache: who will run post-war Gaza? (Nidal Al-Mughrabi , Emily Rose and Matt Spetalnick, Reuters)

The plan for post-war Gaza that Israel pitched to US allies is to run the strip in cooperation with powerful local families. But there's a problem: in a place where Hamas still wields ruthless influence, none want to be seen talking to the enemy.

A major pillar of the plan, according to public statements from leading Israeli officials, was to shape an alternative civil administration involving local Palestinian actors not part of the existing structures of power and willing to work alongside Israel.

However, the only plausible candidates in Gaza for this role – the heads of powerful local families – are unwilling to get involved, according to Reuters' conversations with five members of major families in Gaza, including the head of one grouping.

One of Gaza's clan leaders, who asked not to be named, told Reuters Israeli officials had contacted other mukhtars – though not him – in the past few weeks. He said he knew about it because the recipients of the calls told him about the calls.

He said the Israeli officials wanted "some respected and influential people" to help with aid deliveries in northern Gaza. "I expect that mukhtars will not cooperate with these games," he said, citing anger with Israel over its offensive, which has killed clan members and destroyed property.

With crime in Gaza soaring, Israel faces the reality of Iraq-style guerilla war (Zvi Bar’el, Haaretz)

The "news" that, very soon, the Israel Defence Forces will move on to the third phase of the war in Gaza, in which it will withdraw most of its forces from the Gaza Strip, greatly worries Gaza's residents, aid organizations and the United States.

"They expect a scenario in which a reality similar to what happened in Iraq, when it was under the control of the U.S. forces, will develop in Gaza," a European diplomat familiar with the operations of aid organisations in Gaza told Haaretz. "Especially when there are no outside forces in Gaza, except for Hamas, to supervise internal security, public order and people's assets."

Examples are not lacking. In April, $120 million was stolen from the Bank of Palestine, which was deposited in steel safes at the bank's Rimal branch. Citizens report gang warfare over control of streets and neighbourhoods, in addition to serious violence that sometimes includes murder over a sack of flour or aid package.

This is a real war involving local gangs that existed before October 7. They have been joined by hundreds of criminals whom Hamas released at the start of the war for fear Israel would bomb the prisons.

In the face of a reality in which gangs and Hamas terrorist squads, who have switched to a guerrilla war in Iraqi and Syrian style, control 2.25 million people living with appalling, unceasing hunger and stress, Israel has no strategy or operating plan. In the best case, it will be forced to cooperate with armed family gangs, and in the realistic case, Hamas will return to control Gaza's civilian infrastructure.

Israeli army set to wind down fighting in Gaza, but without reaching a hostage deal (Amos Harel, Haaretz)

The direction from now on is becoming clearer – thinning out the forces in Gaza, transitioning to a system of raids on Hamas targets there and moving troops to the northern border.

The key question will be how to embed this development in a narrative that will convince the public that the government and the Israel Defense Forces have achieved a significant portion of the war's goals, even though Hamas hasn't been totally defeated and 120 hostages still haven't come home.

Hamas is still active, but it is operating in a new format, based on small terrorist and guerrilla cells that aren't capable of causing as much damage and that have almost no chain of command and control. And even though almost 20 rockets were launched from Khan Yunis at southern Israel on Monday, the threat of rocket fire from Gaza at southern and central Israel has been significantly reduced.

The army will have to keep fighting Hamas, but this will be done in the "mowing the grass" format used in the West Bank – conducting repeated raids on Hamas targets, arresting terrorists and sending them to the Shin Bet for interrogation.

The problem is that this message is complex and hard for the public to swallow, especially given the ambitious goals set at the start of the war. 


Israel boosts power to Gaza desalination plant in bid to avert humanitarian crisis (Times of Israel)
Vast majority of Gaza population now in humanitarian zone, where facility’s water will be sent.

Freed Gaza hospital head accuses Israel of repeated torture (Guardian)
Al-Shifa’s Mohammed Abu Salmiya alleges Israel tortured him across seven months of detention without charge.

State prosecutor seeking probe of Ben Gvir for anti-Gazan incitement (Times of Israel)
Move said aimed at pacifying ICJ by showing Israel is prosecuting individuals for inflammatory comments amid war with Hamas; far-right minister: ‘Deep state’ trying to undermine me.

Israel and UN negotiate deploying Musk's Starlink in Gaza (Axios)
The UN told Israel the system is a requirement for the organization to fully resume the distribution of aid across the Gaza strip, Israeli officials said.


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