There’s no shortage of plans for the “day after” the Israel-Hamas war. All have shortcomings and faults. Here are some of the proposals:
· Maintain Israeli control of Gaza indefinitely, to make sure that Hamas doesn’t retake power.
· Turn Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority, either as it is now or “reconstituted,” whatever that means.
· Empower the United Nations to take over Gaza and try to make Hamas behave.
· Open Gaza’s border with Egypt, and “allow” (or encourage) Gaza residents to relocate.
Where all these suggestions fail is by ignoring the crucial element that allows any solution anywhere to work: interests. To succeed, a plan has to account for the interests of all the parties. None of these do.
There are several reasons for that. First, neither the current Israeli nor Palestinian leaders would agree about any of those plans.
But more importantly—this isn’t only about Gaza. For an arrangement to succeed in ending the violence over the long run, it has to include the rest of the parties—like Hezbollah, which has been bombarding border communities in Israel’s north, forcing Israel to evacuate many of them.
Then there are the Houthi rebels in Yemen, threatening the free passage of ships in the vital Bab el-Mandeb straits that lead to the Suez Canal, ostensibly targeting ships heading for or owned by Israel but threatening all shipping there.
The common thread connecting Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Houthis is Iran.
So this is not only an Israeli problem. It’s a problem for most of the world. The US has begun to realize that, moving to set up a multinational coalition to counter the Houthi threat to free shipping.
It’s in the interests of the US, the West, the free world, and some elements of the not-so-free world to allow ships to travel unencumbered from suppliers to ports, regardless of accidents of geography that place this or that narrow point within the gunsights of a gang of violent radicals.
That’s a good start. If we’re looking for a solution after the Gaza war, it has to be a long-range plan that serves the interests of all concerned.
When it comes to Gaza specifically—Israeli control would really mean an open-ended continuation of the war. Likewise, the Palestinian Authority, which has released statements applauding the Hamas atrocities, would do little or nothing to prevent Hamas from rearming and continuing its attacks on Israel. Nothing needs to be said about the United Nations, considering its record of bashing Israel at every opportunity and its serving Hamas. And “exporting” Gaza residents, by agreement or force, is not even minimally viable, because—bluntly put—nobody wants them.
The real solution is to build on the US initiative for protecting shipping through the Bab el-Mandeb straits. That means forming a workable international coalition of nations and forces that have an interest in free shipping lanes on the one hand and reining in Iran on the other—recognizing that those two points are actually the same.
The mechanics of governing Gaza the “day after” the war are less important than the establishment of a long-term framework to benefit everyone, except Iran.
Chances are that Israel will be directly involved in the post-war security picture in Gaza. International organizations will come in and help the new refugees, those who lost their homes in the fighting.
Israel will take a lot of heat at that stage, as if Israel is to blame for it all. That’s despite the fact that on Oct. 7, Hamas sent 3,000 terrorists across the border to murder, rape, burn and behead 1,200 Israelis, parading naked, bloody women through the streets of Gaza with cheering, jeering crowds. Even that isn’t enough to persuade everyone that Israel must take whatever measures are necessary to see that such an atrocity never happens again.
Moving past that aberration, with an international coalition stepping in to protect both Israelis and Palestinians from Hamas (and each other), there would be room for thinking long term.
That’s where the old “two-state solution” mantra is sure to reappear. As I’ve written here before, with its massacre, Hamas killed the two-state solution because of its genocidal atrocities, cheered on by the very Palestinian Authority that’s supposed to take over.
If only there were an element of the coalition that could deal with the Israel-Palestinian aspect. Well, there is—the Arab nations that made peace with Israel under the Abraham Accords, plus Saudi Arabia. They are the parties with the most direct reason to gang up on Iran.
That doesn’t necessarily mean a military confrontation. It means weakening Iran’s influence in the region by replacing it with something better. That could take the form of drawing a border between Israel and the Palestinian areas, enforced by the coalition, and then undertaking the huge project of readying the Palestinian people for peace with Israel after decades of rejectionism and hate education.
Then—and only then—would the two-state solution align with everyone’s interests. Israel gets a border, the Palestinians get a state, the Arabs remove a thorn from their sides, and the West regains influence in the region.
In the meantime, it won’t be easy. Drawing the border would probably mean evacuating a number of Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Painful as that might be, it would be prudent for Israel to get with this coalition program, instead of forcing its members to impose the deal militarily. Force is likely needed on the other side, as the Palestinians are sure to reject the arrangement, just as they have rejected two concrete Israeli proposals for a state.
Either way, a coalition including Western and Arab nations can deal with this.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah would remain a threat until the Lebanese decide they’ve had enough of the terrorists. Till then, the presence of an international coalition would serve as a deterrent to keep Hezbollah—and its Iranian masters—on the sidelines.
How long would all this take? Years, maybe a decade, maybe more. It’s worth the wait and the effort, because it’s the best formula for emerging from decades of violence into a better future.