Sarah Katz

A multinational effort toward Israeli security and Palestinian liberation

In the wake of terror allegations by the Israeli government against the primary Palestinian humanitarian agency United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the agency’s dismantlement. Both the October 7 attacks in southern Israel by Hamas and the ensuing bloodshed wrought by Israeli retaliation in Gaza have invited a spike in both antisemitism and Islamophobia worldwide as well as increasing unrest in the Middle East. Amid a time of understandable emotional volatility from all parties involved, the injustices felt by Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank that led to these attacks must be addressed – injustices based in a feeling of statelessness and oppression. Keeping the present security concerns of both sides in mind, Palestinian needs must be met on the ground, which can only happen through Palestinian autonomy.

Past traumas rendered by European colonial rule will always exist for both sides, from the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 to the Nakba (known to Israelis as Israeli Independence Day) to October 7, 2023. However, perpetual refugee status for Palestinians is inhumane, and concessions are needed to help empower Palestinians toward self-sovereignty that Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud government isn’t willing to entertain. Fortunately, more moderate to left-leaning Israeli political parties such as Yesh Atid and Meretz have expressed the will and desire to explore the opportunity for Palestinian statehood alongside prioritization of Israel’s security. This focus on the future can only begin with the present and considering what changes both sides need to see in order to avoid falling victim to the sort of radicalization and reactionary hawkishness that leads to atrocities like October 7 and the resulting retaliation.

To start, the allies of both the Israelis and Palestinians must demand a bilateral ceasefire, namely the Biden Administration making it clear to Netanyahu that United States’ weapons trade to Israel remains contingent on the IDF complying with the International Court of Justice’s call for avoidance of genocide. Given that airstrikes have proven to cause some of the worst destruction in the Gazan enclave, total restriction of such operations could be a start, especially given Hamas’s tendency to use materials from unexploded Israeli bombs to construct rockets. US ground forces could then carry out a hostage rescue mission with IDF guidance into Gaza’s urban terrain.

Overall, Israel’s closest ally could continue encouraging Israel’s government to emphasize de-radicalization of both Israeli Jews as well as Palestinians, as indiscretions such as settler violence in the West Bank during wartime only risks vilifying Israel in the eyes of many of its usual supporters who have grown dismayed at Israel’s apparent use of force in Gaza. Further, Israel’s government should be further cautioned against endangering its own peace activists and alienating its allies while simultaneously emboldening its enemies in the region who continue to threaten Israel’s existence.

Since October 7, Iran’s intermittent threats, Lebanon’s deterrent warnings, Yemeni Houthi drone attacks, and Egypt’s hostility toward Netanyahu encroaching into Rafah need not be added to decreasing support from Israel’s Western backing. Indeed, while Israel has long been considered the far and away superpower among its neighbors, Hamas and Hezbollah might be just the tip of the iceberg compared to Iran’s bourgeoning nuclear capabilities. Indeed, the goal to annihilate every bit of Hamas infrastructure when the latter both entrenches itself among civilians and boasts a sophisticated subterranean tunnel network could prove a nigh impossible task – and certainly one that promises Israel no shortage of reputational damage along the way.

Moreover, Hamas has promised to repeat October 7-style attacks until Israel’s total obliteration, even affirming the willingness to martyr Gazan civilians in the process. Israel cannot possibly hope to eradicate Hamas and leave Gaza at all intact, to say nothing of leaving Israelis at the mercy of vengeful neighbors. Fortunately, the plummet in Israeli approval of Netanyahu and talks of impending total destruction of Hamas control in Gaza could allow for a bilateral government overhaul amid hostage rescue en route to a permanent ceasefire.

A permanent peace plan has recently been proposed in the form of a one-state solution, particularly by Arabs and Muslims who champion the Palestinian right of return. However, given the tenuous security situation with the existing entities of two Palestinian territories bordering Israel proper, a single state without significant military buffers seems too risky an undertaking, especially with members of each side more prone to radicalization in light of the past 75 years. Instead, an alternative involving simplified Israeli citizenship opportunity for those living in existing Palestinian territories could constitute a safer right of return to what is now Israel as well as autonomy in their own state.

Ideally, such autonomy would see Israel grant control to a joint UN-moderate Palestinian Authority coalition in Areas A and B of the West Bank, with area C under joint Israeli, UN, US, and Palestinian rule, and with full Israeli citizenship rights offered to Palestinians living in Area C and East Jerusalem. The coveted city of Jerusalem would then be declared the capital of both Israel and Palestine, with East Jerusalem under Palestinian jurisdiction to reflect its long-standing Arab presence. This joint capital could be established in a similar fashion to Chandigarh, shared between the Haryana and Punjab states in India. This coalition established in Area C and East Jerusalem would help ensure equal voting rights for Palestinians whose lives would be impacted by living in a partial Israeli state as well as to secure the safety of Israelis already living there.

While erected for security purposes in response to Hamas violence, the Israeli blockade and resultant land, air, and sea control of Gaza only serve to further radicalize Palestinians against Israel, as does the ongoing bloodshed wrought by the Israeli offensive on Gaza in response to October 7. In the event of a permanent bilateral ceasefire, a moderate Palestinian leadership could replace Hamas in Gaza and the blockade lifted. This new leadership, perhaps comprised of envoys from the Palestinian Authority moderated by a neutral US and UN presence for respective Israeli and Palestinian confidence, could help Gazans who wish to relocate to the West Bank in a unified Palestine. Those who wish to stay will see Gaza rebuilt by both Israel and the Arab Gulf states using unbridled supplies for developed infrastructure on par with that in Israel or even Dubai.

In terms of security assurance, the US and UN could work with the IDF and local Palestinian security forces in both Gaza and the West Bank to enforce restraint and defensive rather than offensive security operations. In particular, US inclusion could introduce the third-party monitoring responsibilities that weren’t granted for the Oslo Accords, leading to a lack of enforcement. These measures would help prevent excessive force by authorities when thwarting extremist violence in Israel and Palestine. This hypothetical collaboration between Israelis, Palestinians, and the international community would follow the model of the U.S.-Iraq Joint Security Cooperation Dialogue Joint Statement which stands for a “commitment to security cooperation and shared interest in regional stability.”

This vision for a viable future can only come about with cooperation among Israel, Palestine, the United Nations as the professed presiding neutral player, the Arab Gulf States for economic support and Arab-Israeli diplomatic morale, and the United States to help curb Israeli concerns over UN motives. Ultimately, these parties would place equal priority on meeting the daily needs of both Israelis and Palestinians to help decrease the risk of cyclical radicalization and retaliatory violence as well as the threat of enabling a proxy war backed by Iran, China, and Russia with the United States.

About the Author
Sarah Katz is an author, screenwriter, and security professional with a bachelor degree in Middle East Studies from UC Berkeley and a master degree in counterterrorism. Her work has appeared in the Jewish Journal and Middle East Forum as well as Cyber Defense Magazine, Cyber Security, Dark Reading, Geopolitical Monitor, Infosecurity Magazine, ISACA Journal, 365 tomorrows, AHF Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review and Thriller Magazine. Her book "Back to the Tribe: Intersectionality through a Global Jewish Lens" discusses the dangers of stealth antisemitism masquerading as anti-Zionism on the Western left.
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