Israel and United States At Loggerheads Over Future Of Gaza.

Prime Gaza seafront real estate ripe for redevelopment, but who will govern it?
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U.S. and Israeli officials looking to the future of the Gaza Strip after dislodging Hamas have begun discussing possibilities, including an interim government backed by the United Nations and with the involvement of Arab governments, people familiar with U.S. government deliberations have told Bloomberg.

The discussions are still at an early stage and would first depend on a successul  Israeli ground invasion and ousting of Hamas, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified due to the private nature of the deliberations.

Any such possibility would need buy-in from Arab nations around the region, which is by no means certain.

Israeli officials have said repeatedly that they don’t intend to occupy Gaza long-term, but they’ve also said that continued rule by Hamas is unacceptable after the Oct. 7th attack in which 1,400 Israelis died, most of whom were civilians, and around 240 people were taken hostage, including citizens of several different nationalities.

The challenge of achieving both of those objectives has helped fuel U.S. worries that Israel hasn’t given enough thought to what comes after an invasion. The U.S. is also worried that a Gaza attack with no clear objective beyond ousting Hamas could fan the conflict into a regional war.

A spokesperson for the White House National Security Council said the focus at the moment is uniting the world against terrorists and on delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza as soon as possible.

Hamas has long-since been designated a terrorist group by the U.S. and the European Union, which creates problems since Hamas is also the civilian government of Gaza.

At the same time, the fate of Gaza after the likely ground invasion has become one of the most pressing worries for American officials. In the weeks since the Hamas attack took place, President Joe Biden’s team has sought to balance support for Israel with concerns about an unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

As part of the ongoing conversations, the U.S. and its allies have sought to delay the invasion to buy time for more people to flee northern Gaza and for secret talks mediated by Qatar to win the release of hostages held by Hamas, according to people familiar with the efforts.

Establishing an interim government would be incredibly difficult, and getting Arab governments’ acquiescence would be even more of a challenge, according to William Usher, a former senior Middle East analyst at the CIA.

“A plan that involved Arab governments would require a major shift in how Arab states accept risk and work with one another,” Usher said. “It would also require a leap of trust by Jerusalem — a commodity in short supply.”

On Friday, Israel’s defense minister suggested that the country has no intention of running the territory after its military operations wind down. Israel aims to disentangle itself from Gaza and to create a “new security reality” in the region, Yoav Gallant said to the parliamentary foreign affairs and defense committee in Tel Aviv.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has suggested handing control of Gaza back to the Palestinian Authority, which was defeated by Hamas in elections there in 2006.

“I think in the end the best thing is that the Palestinian Authority goes back into Gaza,” Lapid said at a media briefing in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, and the Palestinian diaspora in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon wouldn’t provide viable alternatives, according to Ted Singer, a former senior intelligence officer at the CIA who specialized in the Middle East.

“Routed out of Gaza in 2006, the Palestinian Authority lacks credibility and barely governs the West Bank,” Singer said. “The Palestinian diaspora has lost meaningful ties to Gaza.”

Biden administration officials have so far avoided broaching possible governance arrangements for Gaza in public.

The Palestinian people in Gaza deserve a leadership that allows them to live in peace and security, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on CBS on Sunday.

Soures: The Japan Times, Bloomberg.
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