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Spectator USA
Spectator USA
24 Feb 2024
Limor Simhony Philpott

NextImg:Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan won’t deradicalize the Palestinians

Four months after the beginning of the Gaza war, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has finally presented his security cabinet with a post-war plan for Gaza.

Netanyahu had come under intense criticism, especially from President Biden, for his lack of a plan so far. Israelis were warning as well that their country needed a roadmap beyond what Netanyahu refers to as Israel’s “absolute victory” over Hamas, which 55 percent of Israelis think isn’t likely. It now seems that Netanyahu has succumbed to domestic and international pressure.

The plan is divided into short-term, medium-term and long-term actions and objectives. In the short-term, Israel will pursue ending Hamas’s rule over Gaza and aim to reduce the organisation’s military capabilities in order to restore Israel’s security.

In the medium-term, Israeli security forces will remain in a buffer zone within the Gaza Strip. The buffer zone, roughly half a mile deep, aims to prevent infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory. Israel also plans to have troops along the border between Gaza and Egypt to prevent smuggling of weapons and other contraband that will allow Hamas to rebuild its power.

According to the Netanyahu plan, Israel will maintain security control over both Gaza and the West Bank, which is under the rule of the Palestinian Authority. The day-to-day lives of Gazan citizens will be managed by Palestinian officials who are not affiliated with terror organizations or countries that support terrorism. They will not be run by the PA, which Netanyahu has no confidence in.

Netanyahu also plans to replace the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees with other international aid organizations to provide Palestinians in Gaza with humanitarian aid. According to Israel, there is considerable evidence to support claims that UNRWA has been radicalizing Gazans by glorifying terrorism and disseminating extremist, anti-Israel and antisemitic materials in schools. The organization has also allegedly employed people affiliated with Hamas — some of whom participated in the October 7 attack on Israel.

With this plan, Netanyahu has tried to please both the far-right extremists in his government — who have been pushing for Israeli control over the Palestinian territories — and the Americans, who have advocated for a long-term solution that will give the Palestinians autonomy and, eventually, statehood. As a result of these competing ideologies, Netanyahu’s plan will probably end up pleasing no one.

Although Netanyahu’s aim of creating a demilitarized and deradicalized Gaza that will not pose a threat to Israel is similar to President Biden’s plan, the execution of the two plans is markedly different.

The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will not be reunited under one rule. Keeping the two entities divided, and restricting the autonomy of Palestinians in Gaza, could undermine chances of establishing a Palestinian state. This will not please the Palestinians or the Americans. Egypt is also unlikely to be happy with the presence of Israeli troops on its border. Palestinian civilian rule in Gaza may displease Netanyahu’s right-wing nationalist ministers, but not to the point where they will break up the coalition.

The plan may help Israel’s security in the short and medium-term, but it’s unlikely to deradicalize Palestinians, and so will not contribute to long-term security. Keeping troops in Gaza will also be dangerous and costly. Doing this for several months or a year will help Israel fight Hamas and prevent attacks on Israelis, but keeping forces in Gaza for longer than that will be unpopular among Israelis, in the same way that Israel’s fifteen-year presence in the security zone in south Lebanon was. It could also alienate Israel’s allies, who will question the legitimacy of keeping forces in Gaza.

Although in the long-term Netanyahu does not rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state, he has criticized calls by several allies, such as the US and UK, to recognize it before a peace deal has been achieved.

As flawed as both Netanyahu’s and Biden’s plans are, recognizing Palestinian statehood before a peace deal has been agreed will not help matters. Although it’s a common belief that it’s primarily the Israeli government that rejects a two-state solution, Palestinian leaders have themselves shown that this isn’t their preferred solution either.

Over the years, Israel has agreed to numerous deals that required major concessions, while Palestinian leaders have rejected them, holding on to the dream of a Palestinian state to be established on the ruins of a Jewish state. Moderate governments on both sides, with a vision of peaceful coexistence, has always been the only viable solution, and this is what the international community should strive to advance rather than impose a premature solution that neither side is ready for.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.