- Benjamin Netanyahu has suggested that Israel could take security control of the Gaza Strip for an indefinite period.
- Both the United Nations and the United States do not support an Israeli reoccupation of Gaza.
- Experts have suggested other possible security options for Israel, including “buffer zones”.
The Gaza Strip’s security could fall under the control of Israel “for an indefinite period” after the war with Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, in a statement that experts say raises considerable questions.
The Israeli government withdrew its military forces and dismantled its settlements in Gaza in 2005, retreating to the 1967 Green Line to improve security. Hamas has controlled security within the enclave since being elected in 2006.
In 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2021 violence in Gaza flared up, involving Israeli air raids and Palestinian rocket fire, and sometimes also cross border incursions by either side.
Israel has pledged to completely wipe out Hamas, following the group’s 7 October attack on Israel, which was .
The attack claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people and over 240 hostages were taken by Hamas, according to the Israeli government.
What is Israel planning to do after the war with Hamas is over?
An interview with Netanyahu last week provided insight into the Israeli government’s possible longer-term security plans for Gaza.
“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,” he said.
“When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we couldn’t imagine.”
He followed it up on Sunday by saying that the Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, could not take charge of the the Gaza Strip in its current form, claiming it fuels hatred of Israel.
“We need a different authority. We need a different administration,” Netanyahu said. Asked what sort of body that would be, he replied: “I think it’s too early to say.”
Netanyahu did not elaborate on what “security responsibility” would entail but Israeli officials have since issued statements suggesting that they do not intend to reoccupy Gaza.
“We don’t want to govern the Gaza Strip. We don’t want to rule over its population,” Netanyahu’s senior advisor Mark Regev told ABC’s 7:30 on Wednesday.
“We are looking at, together with others, other contingencies that will allow Palestinians to rule themselves.
“But it’s clear you have to differentiate between political control, which Israel does not want, and a security envelope or a security situation where Israel can protect itself from terrorism.”
What could the future of Israel and Gaza look like?
Andrew Thomas, a lecturer in Middle East Studies at Deakin University, said Netanyahu’s comments were not very clear.
“I don’t think even Netanyahu knows what that would look like,” he told SBS News.
“Which I think is probably more emblematic of the fact the Israeli government doesn’t know exactly what Gaza will look like politically after this conflict.”
One way Netanyahu might try to bolster security in the future is to create “no man’s lands” or “buffer zones”, as seen in Sinai in Egypt or Lebanon, he said.
“I firmly believe that there will be some kind of occupation, possibly the use of no man’s lands … where both Palestinian civilian and military targets will be prohibited from entering,” he said.
Thomas said that, while both conservative and progressive Israelis think Netanyahu’s government had dropped the ball on security, there was no political appetite to reoccupy Gaza.
It’s a sentiment echoed by Israel’s closest ally, the United States, which Thomas said was already under significant financial burden from the war in Ukraine.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said there should be “no reoccupation of Gaza after the conflict ends” and called on Israel to not “forcibly displace Palestinians … not now, not after the war”.
“The reality is that there may be a need for some transition period at the end of the conflict, but it is imperative that Palestinian people being central to governance in Gaza and in the West Bank as well,” he said.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the body can “play a part” in mediating this transition when the war ends.
“I don’t see a UN protectorate in Gaza, but the international community needs to come together and the UN can play a part in that,” he told CNN on Sunday.
“To find a transition that is acceptable to Israel from the point of view of the guarantee of security for Israel … that allows for the transfer to an effective Palestinian Authority.”
He added that “the two-state solution is, in my opinion, the only way out”.
The UN has been engaging with key players in the region, with Guterres travelling to Egypt to call for a de-escalation and liaising with member states towards a ceasefire.
The UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, met with the Egyptian foreign minister to broker a humanitarian corridor in an effort to get life-saving aid into Gaza.
The UN has also said reoccupation is not the right step, with Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights Francesca Albanese urging the Australian government to take a stronger stance on the issue.
“I want the Australian people to understand that in three weeks the same number of people who have been killed in 19 months of war in Ukraine have been killed [in Gaza],” she told SBS News.
Israel’s ongoing has killed more than 10,569 people, , with 40 per cent of them children.
She said that, while an armed presence was not required, a “buffer” was necessary “between the Palestinians and Israelis in the occupied Palestinian territory”.
Could Israel impose a West Bank-style security system on Gaza?
In 1993 the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Israel signed the Oslo Accords, which divided into three areas — A, B and C — with differing rights for people living in each area.
The Oslo Accords also led to the formation of the Palestinian Authority, which was granted partial administrative and security control over areas A and B, together accounting for 39 per cent of the West Bank.
As a result of Oslo, security in the West Bank is enforced in a substantially different way to Gaza.
Anas Iqtait, a lecturer at the Australian National University, said “it’s extremely unlikely that Israel is going to maintain the same security presence in the Gaza Strip that it maintains in the West Bank.”
A map showing Gaza, Israel and West Bank. Credit: SBS News
He said that for this to happen Israel would have to completely take over the Gaza Strip, which he feels would require at least six to nine months of full-scale war. This would mean the deaths of tens of thousands more Palestinians, including children and women, he said.
“The Palestinian Authority has 70,000 security officials in its employment … their purpose is to police Palestinian communities and co-ordinate with Israel to ensure resistance to the Israeli military or Israeli settlers is contained,” Iqtait said.
“So the big question is: Is the Palestinian Authority ready to go to the Gaza Strip after the Israeli military is done? [They] have said repeatedly that this is not something that they have contemplated, and this is not something that they are going to accept, unless it is part of a comprehensive political solution with Israel.”
Hamas is a Palestinian military and political group, which has gained power in the Gaza Strip since winning legislative elections there in 2006. Its stated aim is to establish a Palestinian state, while refusing to recognise Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas, in its entirety, is designated as a terrorist organisation by countries including Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. New Zealand and Paraguay list only its military wing as a terrorist group. In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly voted against a resolution condemning Hamas in its entirety as a terrorist organisation.
– With additional reporting from Reuters