As the war between Israel and Hamas rages in the Gaza Strip, the American government and America’s newspaper of record, The New York Times, are busy thinking about “the day after” ,much more than their counterparts in Israel and Palestine, who are deeply enmeshed in the current moment, and don’t often think too far ahead. Distinguished and veteran journalists, such as Thomas Friedman (“It’s time for a Biden Peace Plan (International NY Times, November 16, 2023) and Nicholas Kristof (“Mr. Biden, do more to build peace”, November 13, 2023 International NY Times), are urging President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken to press forward with their post-Hamas plans concerning how a revitalized Palestinian Authority will magically administer the horrible mess created by this war in Gaza and how the post-war situation could create a new momentum for a two-state solution.
However, there are several practical problems with these ideas.
The first one is the current Israeli government and its “leader”. The current Prime Minister is the leading rejectionist! He is rejecting the idea that anyone other than Israel can rule Gaza, certainly from the security point of view. He has said many times in recent days that Israel will administer Gaza without quite saying explicitly that we will re-occupy it completely. Also, some of his extreme right-wing ministers in the most irresponsible and most fanatic government that Israel has ever had are suggesting that Israel re-establish settlements in Gaza, an idea that Bibi has so far rejected but we cannot rule anything out if he is forced into a corner to keep his coalition alive.
In short, the current government of Israel (may it live a short life!) is not a partner to these ideas. In order to seriously engage with the USA about post-war plans, we need a new government and a new leader as fast as possible. This is why there are already many calls for Bibi to be replaced as soon as possible by many people in Israel, including the families of the hostages, who are deeply disappointed in his leadership and consider him directly responsible for the great debacle of October 7th.
The second problem is with the Palestinian “leadership.” Abu Mazen is old, tired, weak and inept. He is basically irrelevant. While he gives lip service to the ideas being presented by the Americans, he makes maximalist conditions, as usual, which will make it nearly impossible to go forward. Moreover, on a practical level, why would anyone really think that he and his cronies, who have mismanaged the Palestinian Authority for so long with ineptitude and corruption, would do any better in the Gaza strip?
Everyone knows that nothing can move forward as long as Abu Mazen is in charge. But who will come after him? No one knows.
One of the unfortunate ironies for many years in both Israel and Palestine has been the absence of serious leadership. Both “leaders” have blamed each other for many years for the inability to move forward with a peace process. Both have said over and over again that “we don’t have a partner for peace” without looking in the mirror and realizing that they are the problem.
In short, none of the American ideas for peace after this war ends—as laudable and worthwhile as they may be—have any chance of going anywhere with the current Israeli and Palestinian governments.
Thirdly, this war is far from over. Neither of the goals set by the government of Israel for the war have yet to be achieved: Hamas has not been fully defeated, nor have the hostages been returned home. Unfortunately, both situations may continue for a long time, several months or more. When one is in the midst of a great depression (caused by the horrific massacres of October 7th) –or a catastrophic national trauma—it is very difficult to think ahead clearly.
How then, could any of the peace plans being developed by the Biden administration, begin to take hold in Israel and Palestine?
The answer is: only with new leadership.
In the case of Israel, this needs to happen as soon as possible! Some people in Israel are even calling for this to happen in the midst of the war (since they realize that Bibi will use the ongoing war as an excuse to hold on to power for a long time.
How can this happen? There are a few possible scenarios:
- There will finally be a revolt within the Likud! Once the Likud base realizes that their leader (who has a 17% approval rating in Israel) can no longer keep them in power, they could elect a new leader to head the party.)
- One of the other pollical parties in the government—such as one of the ultra-orthodox parties—could break up the coalition if they begin to be fed up enough with all of Bibi’s lies and manipulations or if other politicians, such as Benny Gantz, make them better offers.
- The Israeli public rises up in great anger and with unprecedented force via massive demonstrations and demands that Bibi resign! This could happen since so much of the public holds him responsible for the terrible situation in which Israel finds itself these days.
In any event, Israel will need new leadership in a hurry in order for this country to be a real partner with America (and others) and the Palestinians in any kind of meaningful peace process. There is much hope emerging in Israel that Benny Gantz and his centrist party could form a genuine center coalition (including center-right and center-left political parties) that could be a genuine partner for Biden, Blinken and their teams to move the peace process forward.
As far as the Palestinians go, they need new leadership too, but it is not at all clear if this could happen fast enough (unless you believe that Biden will beat Trump, God-willing, in the American elections in about one year and then there will be more time).
With all of these caveats, I would like to say that I think that the American and New York Times peace ideas are important and even essential. Someone has to be thinking about the post-war era. Otherwise, we will just continue to stumble from war to war. Moreover, a renewed peace process is important to both sides in the conflict: Palestinians and Israelis. Only a peace agreement that offers peace and security for both national groups will end the cycle of wars and violence.
Are Israeli and Palestinian leaders up to the task?
Certainly not the current crews. New leadership will need to arise, to make this happen, the sooner the better, for the mutual benefit of everyone in the region.