No one doubts that Israel can destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas. This is the easy part (human cost left aside) – and this objective can be mainly achieved in a few more weeks-time.
But who will govern the Gaza Strip after the defeat of Hamas? Who will provide the billions of dollars needed to rehabilitate the civil infrastructure, who will provide civil governance, health, and humanitarian services to the population in Gaza afterwards? Will it be Israel? Will this be sustainable? The example of the US intervention in Afghanistan suggests the opposite. To get a rough idea: it is estimated that the twenty-years stay of the US in Afghanistan cost more than 2 trillion dollars to the US taxpayers.
Furthermore, whereas in Afghanistan the US enjoyed the support of part of the Afghan population, the civilian population of Gaza is not an innocent victim in this war: The Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas in free elections in 2006. Since then, Hamas quickly eliminated any opposition to its rule, and imposed a strict ideological indoctrination from young age at the schools, to assure the continuation of this regime. As a result, Hamas enjoys today from a wide support in Gaza, especially within the young indoctrinated generation. Does Israel want to take care for years without end of the needs of a restive population of more than two million Palestinians in Gaza?
Israel will have already enough on its shoulders without Gaza: the rehabilitation of the destroyed towns on Israel’s side of its border with Gaza, as well as the return of the tens of thousands of displaced Israelis that lived there before October 7th. And this, assumes that the situation in its northern border with Lebanon will end pacifically without a confrontation with Hezbollah, and tens of thousands of displaced Israelis in northern Israel will be able to return to their homes there. On top of this, the return of Israel to a start-up vibrant economy will require a lot of attention and resources.
What then should Israel do?
Israel’s forces south of Wadi Gaza should leave once two objectives will be achieved: the destruction of the military infrastructure of Hamas and the return home of the Israeli hostages. Israel should not seek the elimination and replacement of Hamas as a governing body south of Wadi Gaza. Israel should leave this task to the people of Gaza. Regime change will not happen today or tomorrow: It may take a generation-time. It will happen when the Palestinians will realize the catastrophes this regime – that they elected and supported – brought upon them.
Allow the new reality to sink in the minds of the people
Genocidal movements and horrendous acts of aggression, like the one perpetuated by Hamas on October 7th on Israeli soil, must have consequences and these consequences must be long-term and be seen, so the people in the region internalize them, and change their behavior accordingly.
A precedent of recent history: Neither the Western Allies nor Russia thought that the German people were innocent victims of World War II, and that they were entitled to a restoration of the pre-war Germany borders, and ethnic Germans were unceremoniously expelled in the hundreds of thousands.
Nazi Germany was not offered a red carpet at the end of World War II, and neither Gaza should.
The Gaza Strip should stay divided (de-facto, if not de-jure) into its northern section (north of Wadi Gaza), under Israel’s jurisdiction and its southern section (south of Wadi Gaza) under Egypt’s jurisdiction. Egypt, for political reasons will probably not recognize this arrangement, but a large part of the actual burden and responsibility of any future military adventures of the Palestinian rulers south of Wadi Gaza, will actually fall on Egypt, because Egypt will control its border. Hopefully, a formal arrangement could be agreed upon to station Saudi Arabian, Jordanian and Egyptian lightly-armed forces south of Wadi Gaza.
North of Wadi Gaza
North of Wadi Gaza will be demilitarized and remain under Israeli jurisdiction. This will allow for a safe return of the large majority of the tens of thousands of presently displaced and war-traumatized Israelis to the border towns next to Gaza, and the rebuilding of their communities. Israeli civilians will not return to rebuild their lives there, after the horrible traumas they experienced on October 7th, if they do not see iron-clad basic changes on the other side of the border: the leaders of Hamas are on record of promising another “October 7th” again, and again.
South of Wadi Gaza
Israel should disconnect itself from any future responsibility of providing electricity, water, work permits and humanitarian aid to Gaza south of Wadi Gaza: It will up to the Palestinians to procure these necessities by themselves, as any other people on this planet do. Israel should not interfere with the flow of goods and people through the Rafah crossing: What comes and goes through the Rafah crossing will be for the Palestinians and Egypt alone to decide.
The Israeli policy regarding Gaza south to the Wadi Gaza should consist in the foreseeable future only on mainly defensive measures, to avoid a repetition of the territorial invasion into Israeli territory by creating effective buffer zones, or to repel any aerial attack, either using the Iron Dome or air force strikes on the sources of fire south of Wadi Gaza.
Hamas (and Iran) should be defeated strategically
The end of the major military operations in Gaza around the end of the January 2024 frame-time will allow Israel and the US to concentrate on restoring the past achievements of the Abraham Accords (with the UAE, Bahrein and Morocco) and strive to achieve peace also between Israel and Saudi Arabia. I believe there will still be a short window of opportunity to achieve this, when the interests of the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel are still aligned, and pressed by the political calendar in the US: any significant tri-lateral treaty must be approved by Congress by September 2024, before the US presidential elections in November 2024. Do not let Hamas and Iran achieve their main goal of their aggression, which was to derail this process. Diplomatic normalization and the establishment of peaceful relations between Israel and the largest and most important Muslim country in the Middle East can only be achieved – but not guaranteed – if the present war between Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Israel has clear, limited, and tangible achievable objectives, and is short, decisive, and ends in a few weeks-time.
Israel will need new elections during the Spring of 2024
Much has changed since October 7th. Many Israelis are still in shock and in pain, but once the tens of thousands of displaced Israelis in the south, near the Gaza border, and in the north, in the border with Lebanon, will return safely to their homes, Israelis will have to quickly go through a process of introspection, analyze why so many things went so wrong, and make the needed corrections to avoid a repetition of these failures.
In a democracy the tool to correct wrongs – real or perceived – is elections. Elections will enable a healthy discussion about what kind of society Israelis want for themselves and what political solutions they prefer in relation to their Arab neighbors.
These elections should be called as soon as possible: Spring 2024 would be desirable, to be consistent with the political objective of the revitalization of the Abraham Accords, and the establishment of peaceful relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, under the auspices of the present US administration.
Hopefully, this time the Israelis will prefer a unity government based at its core on the largest secular Zionist parties, and avoid being held hostage again to small extremist factions.
Notice that in the last elections, held a year ago, in November 2022, the three major secular Zionist parties (the Likud, Yesh Atid, and the National Unity party) got a clear majority of 68 seats in the Knesset (out of 120 seats). The latest polls held just two weeks ago by the Israeli newspaper Maariv, on November 15-16, 2023, gave these three parties again an ample majority of 74 seats.
The future of the West Bank
If one could find something positive in the horrible events of October 7th, it is in that the Gordian knot tying Gaza and the West Bank, and impeding any political solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, can be now effectively untied: The political clock for Gaza does not have to be tied to the political clock in the West Bank. Let the Palestinians in Gaza get the time to decide what future they want for themselves and their children: get rid of Hamas and live in peace with Israel, or persevere in the path of Hamas, that only brought to them one catastrophe after another.
The Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel were proven wrong during the Camp David meetings in 2000 between the US, the Israelis and the Palestinians [see Reference 1 for details]: the Palestinians saw then the Oslo Accords – and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank of today still see them – as part of a two-stage approach: first stage, the return to the pre-1967 borders by an ephemeral creation of a 2-state solution: one state, Israel, within its pre-1967 borders, and a second state, Palestine, comprising the West Bank and Gaza. The second stage envisaged by the Palestinians is the implementation of the “right-of-return” of millions of Palestinians to Israel within its pre-1967 borders, eliminating thus, in fact, the Jewish State (how this influx of millions of Palestinians into Israel could be implemented pacifically is left unexplained by the Palestinians.)
A different approach for the West Bank is needed. The details of the approach are given in . Essentially, the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 between the PLO and Israel represented a sharp turn for the worse, away from the 242 UN resolution of November 1967, and led to nowhere. Israel must propose a return to the UNSC 242 resolution and negotiate with Jordan the solution to the conflict. This means, the reunification of Jordan with a demilitarized West Bank.
The return to the 242 UNSC resolution should also include addressing the refugee problem: Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees, both victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict. An international aid program – similar to the Marshall Plan for Europe after World War II – should be established to develop the economy of Jordan and integrate the Palestinians in the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine. And the international community should also address a just resolution of the claims of the almost one-million Jewish refugees, who were ethnically cleansed from the Arab countries.
 See chapter 3 in: Jaime Kardontchik, “The root of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the path to peace”
 See chapter 6 in: Jaime Kardontchik, “The root of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the path to peace”
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