Since October 7th, there has been a notable unification across the Israeli political landscape, with the entire nation united on the elimination of daily threats faced by its citizens emanating from Gaza, the West Bank, Hezbollah in the north, Iran, and even the Houthis in Yemen.
Israel, in the near future, will need to make a strategic choice regarding the future of governance in Gaza. While all the options are far from ideal, reoccupation may become a necessity.
The options for Gaza are limited to: 1. Allowing Gazans to elect their government, 2. Introducing a UN/Arab League or international force, 3. Handing over control to the Palestinian Authority, 4. Declaring Gaza a “special military territory” under total Israeli control.
The first option was already attempted in 2005 when Gazans elected Hamas, now one of Israel’s foremost enemies and now a costly adversary. Despite the Western World’s preference and continuous push for democracy in the Arab world, these efforts have been unsuccessful, as evidenced most recently by the Arab Spring. Unfortunately, the Arab world seems to respond more favorably to the rule of force by authoritarian regimes and monarchies than to democratic governance. Israel, therefore, cannot risk its security on the premise of fostering Arab democracy, needing instead to safeguard its security interests first, particularly by influencing Gaza’s civil infrastructure, economic opportunities, and education.
The second option, deploying a UN or international force, has historically been ineffective for Israel. The ineffectiveness of UN observers in Lebanon and Syria, who have at times appeared complicit with Hezbollah, is a case in point. Egypt, the former ruler of Gaza, is equally disinterested in reassuming control. Any regional force is likely to carry inherent biases, regardless of whether they come from Arab nations considered friendly to Israel.
The third option, empowering the Palestinian Authority, led by Abu Mazen, to govern Gaza is also fraught with challenges. The PA, currently administering the West Bank, uses educational materials similar to those in Gaza, and the presence of Hamas sympathizers within its population is significant. It would take only a minor incident for the PA to be destabilized by Hamas, as previously occurred in Gaza.
Therefore, Israel’s most feasible interim measure is to establish Gaza as a “special military territory” and oversee civilian aspects of life, including economic opportunities and education. Only after stabilizing Gaza and improving educational and economic opportunities might Israel explore alternative governance solutions for Gaza. A successful overhaul could potentially even serve as a blueprint for the West Bank.