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The Day After Victory

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
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By: The Editorial Board – wsj.com – November 13, 2023

While Israel focuses on winning the war against Hamas, the U.S. has been pressing for commitments on what will come next. Speaking in Tokyo last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out five “Nos”: “No forcible displacement of Palestinians from Gaza. . . . No use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism or other violent attacks. No reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends. No attempt to blockade or besiege Gaza. No reduction in the territory of Gaza.”

Mr. Blinken followed his five “Nos” with three “Musts”: the way forward to peace “must include the Palestinian people’s voices and aspirations at the center of postcrisis governance in Gaza. It must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority. And it must include . . . a pathway to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in states of their own, with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity and dignity.”

It is sensible to think ahead but premature to give marching orders for the harmonious future. Israel still has intense urban fighting ahead. What happens after Hamas’s command center underneath al-Shifa Hospital falls? Will a terrorist insurgency persist in Northern Gaza? How will Israel root out Hamas from Gaza’s south, to which most civilians have fled?

The answers can’t help but affect how Gaza will be governed. “The reality,” Mr. Blinken acknowledged on questioning, “is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict” in which Israel keeps some control. This is essentially what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had said earlier: “I think Israel will, for an indefinite period, have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it.”

If Israel isn’t taking on the terrorists, who will? The rush to empower “the Palestinian people’s voices” after Israel left Gaza in 2005 saw Gazans elect Hamas in 2006. The Palestinian Authority hasn’t held another election in the West Bank, knowing Hamas could win there, too.

Could the PA even hold Gaza? Hamas overpowered it in 2007, throwing its members off buildings. The PA has since decayed. Its hollow dictatorship can barely contain Hamas in the West Bank. Should Mahmoud Abbas, its 87-year-old ruler, pass away, the edifice may crumble.

The Soviet-trained Mr. Abbas, who blames the Holocaust on Jews, has been unwilling to clearly condemn the Oct. 7 massacres. A wing of his Fatah party even claims to have taken part. On Saturday and Sunday Mr. Netanyahu poured cold water on the idea of installing the PA in Gaza, but Mr. Abbas is already trying to dictate terms. He will only take over, he says, as part of a comprehensive solution including a Palestinian state.

Mr. Blinken also has a tendency to talk as if the peace process can soon return to regularly scheduled programming. After Oct. 7, it can’t. It matters that Palestinians elected an Iran-backed terrorist group that used the territory Israel had given up to commit a proto-genocide against Jews. Until there is substantive change among Palestinians, it is futile to demand that Israel empower them to do it all over again in central Israel.

“We don’t seek to conquer Gaza,” Mr. Netanyahu said Thursday. “We don’t seek to occupy Gaza. And we don’t seek to govern Gaza.” Though it was better for civilians on both sides when Israel was in charge, there is little appetite among Israelis to rule over a hostile people indoctrinated for a generation by Hamas. “We’ll have to find a civilian government that will be there,” added Mr. Netanyahu, but “we have to have a credible force that, if necessary, will enter Gaza and kill the killers.”

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There should be no illusions that a United Nations force, rejected Friday by Mr. Netanyahu, could keep the peace. From Lebanon to the Sinai, that idea has failed every time. One speculative solution is a force from the Arab states that have recognized Israel. They may demur, but they have an interest in preventing destabilizing violence and defeating Iranian proxies.

“What we have to see,” Mr. Netanyahu said, “is Gaza demilitarized, deradicalized and rebuilt. All of that can be achieved.” While Biden Administration pessimism led it to withdraw from Afghanistan and surrender the territory, 6,000 miles away, to the Taliban, Israel doesn’t have that option. Gaza is next door. Ensuring “no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism” will require a decisive Israeli victory and more flexibility than “Nos” and “Musts” allow.

 

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Source: The Day After Israeli Victory – WSJ