Israel Has Backed Itself Into a Corner on Post-War Gaza Occupation, Diplomats Say

The US supports the Palestinian Authority returning to Gaza, but Netanyahu refuses to entertain the proposal

As Israel continues its war against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, killing approximately 20,000 people including mostly women and children, it is setting the stage for a future military reoccupation of the coastal enclave. Three Western diplomats, including two ambassadors, told the Times of Israel that – despite the Israeli government’s repeated denials that they seek such a scenario – this is where the policy is ultimately headed.

According to the outlet, the diplomats “explained that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of the Palestinian Authority returning to govern Gaza, his failure to advance viable alternatives, and [Tel Aviv’s] assertion that Israel will maintain overall security control of the Strip are dissuading regional and global actors from cooperating with US efforts to rehabilitate the enclave after the war.”

Netanyahu recently boasted he is proud that he “prevented the establishment of a Palestinian state,” even as he has come under pressure for supporting Hamas as a way to achieve this by isolating the secular Palestinian Authority (PA).

One of the sources speaking with the Times pointedly asked, “We will work to prevent the reoccupation of Gaza, but there aren’t any volunteers to govern there besides the PA, which the current Israeli government is determined to weaken, so where does that leave us?”

The diplomats’ viewpoint reportedly exemplifies that of Western governments which support Israel’s war effort but hold reservations regarding Netanyahu’s plans for the future of Gaza.

Another diplomat speculated that the Israeli apartheid army could occupy Gaza once again for several more years. He hinted, though, there might come a time when that could change – as when Tel Aviv withdrew from southern Lebanon, that occupation having lost public support amid fierce resistance by Hezbollah.

Washington has made clear its opposition to a reoccupation in Gaza, but Netanyahu has declared that after the current war in Gaza, Israel will hold “overall security control.” Concurrently, war cabinet minister Benny Gantz promised “[Israel] will establish full security control over the place, including a territorial seizure that will allow the continuation of the operational effort.”

Israel’s ostensible aim is to create a security buffer in Gaza that would permit the military to conduct violent operations at will in the Strip to root out any resistance pockets left following the war.

“We know that we will have the freedom to eliminate any kind of threat in the future, and there will be no serious military threats against Israel from Gaza… We will conduct any needed operation and military effort in order to secure our future,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said. But Israel “will not control Gaza in any civilian way,” he qualified.

According to the Times report, Israeli officials are privately “[likening] the future status they envision for Gaza to that of the West Bank’s Area B, where Israel maintains security control while not being responsible for civilian services for Palestinians.” The White House insists a “revitalized” PA should “take charge in Gaza once the conflict is over, unifying its administration with the West Bank.”

One diplomat dismissed this plan, saying “No Arab force will agree to enter Gaza under such circumstances,” pointing to the PA’s severe unpopularity. Roughly 90% of Palestinians are demanding Abbas’ resignation. In any case, the PA has clarified they would only return to Gaza in the event of a full withdrawal of Israeli forces as part of a larger initiative to finally establish a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu has refused to entertain this idea, vowing to never allow Gaza to become “Fatahstan,” referring to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ party. For decades, Netanyahu’s Likud party supported the Islamist Hamas group both directly and indirectly. This was done strategically to undercut the nationalist PA so Tel Aviv could claim they have no “partner for peace,” perpetually avoiding international pressure to negotiate a Palestinian state and an end to the occupation while expanding settlements in the West Bank.

In 2006, Hamas won a plurality victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections in Gaza encouraged by the US. Then Washington backed the PA in an attempted coup against the Islamist group which led to Hamas seizing control over the Strip. Ever since, Israel has been implementing a full air, land, and sea blockade on Gaza while carrying out bombing campaigns against the Strip, killing and maiming thousands.

Israeli officials have implored Western countries to assist in their plan to ethnically cleanse Gaza, and the US Congress reviewed a US plan to economically pressure regional countries to accept millions of refugees as well. One Israeli official recently called on the Israel Defense Forces to make Gaza look like the Auschwitz death camp, flattened and emptied of its inhabitants.

During a TV interview, May Golan, Israel’s Minister for the Advancement of the Status of Women, recently proclaimed “I don’t care about Gaza, I literally don’t care. For all I care, they can go out and just swim in the sea.”

Connor Freeman is the assistant editor and a writer at the Libertarian Institute, primarily covering foreign policy. He is a co-host on the Conflicts of Interest podcast. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as, Counterpunch, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. He has also appeared on Liberty Weekly, Around the Empire, and Parallax Views. You can follow him on Twitter @FreemansMind96.