The Israeli authorities have openly expressed that their objective is to remove the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) from power in Gaza after the unprecedented attacks carried out on October 7 by the Islamist group, which left nearly 1,400 dead and more than 220 kidnapped. , although for now it has not specified what the long-term plans are for this new “security regime” that Tel Aviv is seeking.
The Israeli Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant, indicated last week that the campaign against the Strip – which so far leaves nearly 5,800 dead, including more than 2,300 children – goes through a three-phase plan that must conclude with the “end of all Israeli responsibility for daily life” in the enclave and, finally, “the creation of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel and the residents” of Gaza.
The plan, however, does not specify who would be in charge of the enclave, in the event that a land invasion materializes that results in the beheading of the Islamist group and its departure from power in Gaza, which it has controlled since 2007 as a result of some intra-Palestinian clashes derived from the elections of the previous year.
The United Nations considers that the territory is occupied by Israel, despite the fact that it does not currently have soldiers or settlers after the Disengagement Plan undertaken in 2005, and therefore Israel is responsible for its population, the same situation that exists in the West Bank. and East Jerusalem, also occupied and part of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on which a two-state solution is proposed to end decades of Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Therefore, it remains to be seen if the Israeli Army finally launches its offensive – apparently postponed by the talks to try to free the hostages – and the possible regional repercussions – given a potential expansion of the war in the Middle East -, if Well, ignoring those points, one of the keys would be the future management of affairs in Gaza pending a peace process.
SHOCK THE DISCONNECTION PLAN?
In this sense, several possibilities open up for Israel, one of which involves resuming the occupation of the territory, as happened between 1967 and 2005. This path has been rejected by numerous high-ranking officials. Thus, despite the fact that part of the Israeli religious right continues to criticize the Disengagement Plan and considers that Gaza is part of the historical territory of Israel, a new process of military occupation would have international opposition and would entail a significant economic and political cost. security. In fact, the president of the United States, Joe Biden, recently warned that this route would be “a big mistake.”
Another of Israel’s options would be to put an end to the Hamas leadership by military means and subsequently withdraw from the Strip, although this does not ensure the end of the Palestinian movement, which could be reconstituted with other members of the formation and could even further radicalize their positions or cause a power vacuum to be filled with other forces.
In this context, the door would be opened for a return of the Palestinian Authority – headed by Al Fatah – to the Strip, from where it was expelled in 2007 due to the fighting unleashed after the 2006 elections, in which Hamas won both Gaza as in the West Bank with the victory of the Change and Reform list, a reflection of popular unrest regarding the activities of Al Fatá and the lack of progress in a peace process that leads to the creation of a Palestinian State.
Hamas’s victory led Israel and the United States to reject the results – a position supported by the Palestinian Authority – and, although the Islamist group’s leader, Ismail Haniye, went on to form a government, Israeli operations after the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit and internal tensions led to an internal conflict that resulted in the expulsion of Palestinian Authority forces from Gaza, while the Palestinian Authority remains in charge of the West Bank.
In this way, an administrative and territorial separation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories was achieved, which led to the imposition of a blockade on Gaza – supported by Egypt – and an entrenchment of Palestinian politics around two increasingly authoritarian blocs in the areas. under its control, while Israel has played the division card to present a scenario in which it apparently does not have a unified interlocutor.
DOUBTS ABOUT THE RETURN OF THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
For this reason, the route of the return of the Palestinian Authority would not be easy to apply either, starting with the existing doubts about the will of its leadership to return to the enclave and passing through the security problems that this could entail for the security forces and officials of the organization, which would foreseeably face strong popular rejection, especially if they are established after an Israeli invasion.
The Palestinian Authority itself, which emerged from the Oslo Accords – signed in 1993 and currently practically void of any content – is unpopular in Gaza and even in the West Bank, where it manages some civil affairs and is criticized by part of the population. , especially in the face of the expansion of Israeli settlements and security operations without a political horizon in sight, demanded by the Palestinian authorities and rejected by Israel.
In fact, a survey carried out in September by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) shows that about two-thirds of Palestinians consider that conditions then were “worse” than those prior to the Oslo Accords, while 62 percent of those surveyed considered that the Palestinian Authority “is a burden on the Palestinian people.”
The PCPSR’s conclusions show that Haniye appeared as a favorite in the presidential election with 58 percent of the support, while 37 percent favored Abbas. Support for Hamas does not in any case reflect that the group has that support among Palestinian society and is rather considered an example of disenchantment with Abbas, whose mandate expired years ago and who in 2021 indefinitely postponed elections just two years ago. months after announcing that they would be held in the face of the fragmentation of Al Fatah and Israel’s refusal to allow residents of East Jerusalem to vote.
In fact, Haniye’s victory would be even larger if he ran against the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohamad Shtayé, while he would be defeated if he faced Marouan Barghuti, a former senior Fatah official who is imprisoned in Israel after being sentenced to several life sentences for his role in organizing attacks.
A fourth way would involve a plan in which the United Nations has a specific mandate to govern the enclave, although it is not clear for now the role that the organization or the participating countries could play in this type of solution, which it would ignore in any case. would obey the will of the Palestinian population and would probably have to face resistance from members of the armed groups present in Gaza, including what might remain of Hamas.
Therefore, a ground invasion by Israel would not only face the difficulties inherent in an operation of this type — which would take place in a densely populated urban context that also has an extensive network of tunnels that Hamas and other groups could used in an underground war in which the Israeli Army would have to overcome various obstacles–, but the political future of the enclave itself would not serve to solve a problem if there is no political process that culminates in the materialization of the two-state solution. .