Israel has launched what appears to be the first phase of a massive ground incursion into Gaza, vowing that Hamas must be eliminated or somehow rendered irrelevant, even at the expense of smashing Gaza to pieces.
But what then? Israeli officials have reportedly told the Biden administration that they haven’t engaged in any serious postconflict planning. That’s probably because none of their options is good and, despite a plethora of fantastical proposals, nobody is going to step in to bear the burden of Israel’s impossible dilemma or, put more simply, clean up its mess.
Israelis may feel that it doesn’t have any responsibility for realities in Gaza, given that Hamas has controlled the territory since 2007. But the rest of the world understands that the occupation has continued, albeit from beyond the borders of the Strip. Israel has all the while kept tight control over Gaza’s coastal waters, its airspace, its airwaves, and all of the crossings into the Strip except for a small one maintained by Egypt. Israel has made almost all of the major decisions regarding Gaza since 1967—including the reckless and self-destructive decision to bolster Hamas in order to split the Palestinian national movement between Islamists based in Gaza and secular nationalists in the West Bank.
Now Israel, apparently regretting this policy after the horrendous Hamas-led killing spree on October 7, has embarked on an offensive that will almost inevitably leave much of Gaza a smoldering pit of devastation. Yet, apparently, it still hopes to then withdraw, passing local authority to … somebody else. But this scenario is a fantasy. No third party is plausibly willing or able to police and rebuild Gaza on behalf of, and in coordination with, Israel. [Continue reading…]