An Arab Trusteeship Council for Gaza, Not A Return of the PA
Former Prime Minister Yair Lapid, a thinker, speaker, and leader deserving of high respect, has just made a suggestion for the post-war era. He proposes that the Palestinian Authority might take over administration of Gaza, doing some with some international assistance.
But when the Palestinian Authority was in charge, it was voted against by Gazans and then violently overthrown by Hamas supporters in the Battle of Gaza, 2007. Is the PA any less corrupt now, any more effective at governance, any more credible with the Gaza population? What would prevent a re-installed PA from being largely staffed by radical elements from Gaza with long experience in administration, violence, arms smuggling, and collaboration with Iran? Would not a PA administering both the West Bank and Gaza not be in a position to transfer violent animus and know-how from Gaza to the West Bank?
Israel is under desperate and immediate pressure – to rescue hostages, degrade Hamas’ military capacities, and stranglehold in power in Gaza, to deter attacks from Hezbollah, and to fulfill its own wish to minimize civilian casualties. It must do so while defending itself against accusations of excessive use of force from genuine humanitarians – and from an influential array of the fact-challenged Israel haters who present themselves as humanitarians.
It is not, however, too early to begin planning for the future of Gaza and the region after that. Immediate and costly military victories do not necessarily produce longer-term strategic victories. Israel knows that from some of its earlier wars, including in Lebanon as well as earlier operations in Gaza.
A clear concept of the post-war political objectives can shape how the battles are fought, how and when they end and what diplomatic conclusions are reached. A well-articulated goal might help to sustain international support, shorten the war and save the lives of Israelis and of civilians in Gaza.
Thinking through now what comes next can also limit the risk of improvised and bungled post-war administration, such as happened after the United States occupied Iraq. As Daniel Pipes has mentioned, in the middle of the Second World War, allied planners already began planning the political architecture for a new era, such as adopting the Atlantic Charter in 1942.
Israel is already under pressure from its supporters – including the United States – to devise alternatives to a return to the earlier occupation by Israel.
No one in Israel would prefer to return to that situation anyway. Israel has no territorial ambitions in Gaz. It has no wish to tie itself down with routine administration there. Israel is currently having enough problems addressing its own economic, policing, and infrastructure issues.
In 2005, Israel withdrew unilaterally and removed its settlements from Gaza, hoping that Gazans would then focus on peacefully building an economy and not on trying to destroy Israel. We know that the Israeli hope has turned into a horror for both the people of Gaza and Israel.
Several days ago, I published here in the Times of Israel an alternative to both Israeli re-occupation and the immediate return of the PA; please see “An Arab Trusteeship Council For Gaza.”
The proposal is that after Hamas is evicted from power, Gaza would be administered for the medium term by an Arab Trusteeship Council. The PA might have a seat on it, but it would be composed mostly of appointees from Arab neighbors of Israel who wish to achieve peace and economic cooperation with Israel, who fear Iranian domination of the region, and who would much prefer to see a stable and prosperous Gaza rather than an exporter of extremism and violence directed against them as well Israel.
The creation of the Trusteeship Council would enable the participating members to show that they have a constructive alternative to renewed Israeli occupation and the continuation of the armed conflict. Establishing order, demilitarization, basic human rights, a reconstruction package, and the beginning of a real economy in Gaza would enable Israel’s predominantly Sunni partners to show that they are the dynamic future of a new Middle East, not the regime in Teheran. The Trustee Council can be part of an overall peace deal with Saudi Araba, and potentially bring in reconstruction funds from that source as well as the prosperous members of the Abraham Accords system and from other members of the international community. Including the United States and the European Union.
The Trusteeship Council would not be permanent, but a time-limited attempt – aimed, say for five to ten years – to establish the practical conditions that could eventually lead to a permanent settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.