Ian Joseph

A Plan of No Plan

The US has provided Israel with everything needed to defeat Hamas and keep Hezbollah at bay politically, militarily, economically and morally. On March 25th, for the first time since October 7, much to the chagrin of PM Netanyahu, the US abstained from a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of the hostages. In an act of petty retribution, Netanyahu cancelled the planned visit to Washington by a delegation of  Israeli ministers to discuss the war. This comes after the Biden administration has given Israel greater military, political, moral and economic support than any other US administration, ever.

Image Public Domain – Courtesy The White House

Biden, and the administration, have continually requested two major items in return for unprecedented American support: 1. A plan for the day after and, 2. Plans and actions to deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Neither have been forthcoming after more than 170 days of the Gaza War. There are good reasons for why neither plan has been produced as will be discussed below.

The viable options for a plan for the day after are:

  1. A full Israeli withdrawal without any coordination with any other body including the Palestinian Authority (PA), the American administration, the UN, the Saudis or any other party. This would obviously leave a power vacuum which would quickly be filled by a resurgent Hamas leaving Israel in a similar position to October 6, 2023 and would be unacceptable to Israel.
  2. Indefinite Israeli occupation and administration of the Gaza Strip with full responsibility for all the inhabitants. This would lead to a situation of a continued insurgence by militants against Israeli forces with accompanying costs and loss of life. It would also lead to continual internal right wing Israeli pressure for a return to civilian settlements in the Gaza Strip. This is an unsustainable solution for Israel and not a viable long term solution.
  3. A full withdrawal coordinated with a reformed PA who would take over responsibility for civil administration and security in Gaza. This would reunite Gaza with the West Bank and lead to increased pressure, both internally and externally for a two state solution to the ongoing Palestinian Israeli War. The two state solution would result in a Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. This is unacceptable to the right wing in Israel and would result in the fall of the current coalition government,
  4. A full withdrawal under the auspices of the UN which would include a takeover by administrative and security forces from Arab countries including Saudi Arabia. This plan would only be implemented conditional on Israel agreeing to it including concrete steps for it leading to a two state solution over a limited time period. Neither the UN nor any Arab countries would agree to take part with including steps leading to a Palestinian state. This plan is unacceptable to the right wing in Israel and would also lead to the fall of the current coalition government.
  5. A partial withdrawal by Israel without any coordination with any other body while continuing intermittent raids into Gaza and attempting to “manage the situation”. This would create conditions similar to 1. above with a resurgent Hamas stepping into the resulting power vacuum. 

Other options floated by Israeli politicians like “encouraging” mass emigration from the Gaza Strip are not viable or acceptable by the international community.

It should be noted that while on the one hand Israelis overwhelmingly desire peace, who wouldn’t, on the other hand a majority reject the cost of a peace settlement with the Palestinians – a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli leadership has repeatedly rejected a viable second state solution. Every so called peace proposal from the Israelis has contained one or more poison pills making that proposal unacceptable to the Palestinians. In a September 26, 2023 poll only 35% of Israelis believe that Israel and a Palestinian state can coexist peacefully. Of which only 32% of Israeli Jews believe that the two states can coexist side by side. Post October 7 attitudes on both sides have hardened. A March 14 survey by The Jewish People Policy Institute found that 79% of Israeli Jews agree and 65% strongly agree with the statement: “There is no chance of a peace agreement with the Palestinians in the foreseeable future.” A January 2024 IDI poll found that more than half of the Israeli public opposed the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a deal even if it would end the war against Hamas and normalize relations between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Post October 7 an overwhelming majority of Israelis oppose the creation of Palestinian state agreeing that the establishment of the Palestinian state would constitute a reward for terrorism. This view is held by Israelis regardless of political affiliations.

Image Public Domain – Courtesy Pixabay

Netanyahu finds himself in an unenviable position. If he were to leave the premiership tomorrow, willingly or unwillingly, his legacy would be that of the PM who presided over Israel’s greatest security failure ever. He would also be vulnerable to a prison sentence resulting from his trial for corruption. In order to stave off both the prison sentence and his stained legacy he has to stay in power for as long as possible. He cannot stay in power by presenting a plan for the day after. Any of the plans above would leave him in the position of either being ousted due to the collapse of the coalition or due to him presiding over ongoing security failures. As such, he recognizes the need to drag the war on for as long as possible without presenting a day after plan.

As for plans for humanitarian support, Israel believes it is doing the minimum necessary to stave of total collapse in Gaza. More humanitarian support for Gaza from Israel would be perceived by the Israeli public as support for Hamas and, once again, a prize for terrorism. It is not possible for Netanyahu to be seen as providing more than a bare minimum of humanitarian support for Gaza. Quite obviously Israel’s definition of the bare minimum required to sustain Gaza does not align with American and international opinion.

Unfortunately, I believe that we are in for a long, long slog of ongoing warfare with both Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north for the rest of 2024 and possibly beyond, all driven by Netanyahus desire to stay in power for as long as possible. The only question is at what point will the Israeli public say “enough”? There are signs of public opposition in the forms of renewed weekly protests against the government calling on Netanyahu to resign and call elections immediately. They are, however, only attended by a few thousand people at this stage.

Without a drastic change in support, both publicly and within the coalition, we are unlikely to see new elections and a possible change in government for the foreseeable future. The next Israeli elections are scheduled to be held in November 2027 at the latest.

So here we are, nearly twenty years after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, after multiple campaigns and clashes with Hamas, no closer and possibly further from a peace settlement with the Palestinians. The question all Israelis should be asking themselves is “After four generations of Israelis have fought wars and campaigns against the Palestinians, what is it that needs to be done so that our children and grandchildren will not have to repeat the same pattern?”

About the Author
Born and educated in South Africa, a graduate of Jewish day school and Habonm Dror, Ian Joseph served in the IDF as an officer in combat units, and currently resides in North Carolina and Cyprus. Ian holds an MBA from Shulich School of Business in Toronto, is certified as a Master Instructor by the American Sailing Association and is currently retired from IBM. Among other pursuits Ian edits a weekly newsletter of Israeli news items, teaches sailing around the world and certifies sailing instructors.
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