Israel’s Plan for Gaza: Maintaining Security Responsibility
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced that Israel would maintain indefinite “overall security responsibility” in Gaza after removing Hamas from power. However, this decision is likely to face opposition from Palestinians and the international community, who may view it as a form of military occupation. Additionally, the presence of Israeli forces could fuel an insurgency and complicate plans to hand governing responsibility to the Palestinian Authority or friendly Arab states.
In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel captured Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. The military directly governed these territories for decades, denying basic rights to Palestinians and building Jewish settlements, which are considered illegal by Palestinians and the international community. This period saw two Palestinian uprisings and the rise of Hamas as a political movement.
The West Bank Model
Interim peace deals known as the Oslo Accords established the Palestinian Authority (PA) as an autonomy government in the West Bank and Gaza. However, the PA lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007, leaving it in charge of only 40% of the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Israel maintains overall security control in the West Bank, with tens of thousands of soldiers deployed across the area. The PA’s cooperation with Israel on security has led many Palestinians to view it as a subcontractor of the occupation.
The Gaza Model
In 2005, Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza, allowing the PA to administer the territory. However, Israel continued to control its airspace, coastline, and most border crossings. Hamas won elections in 2006, leading to an international boycott and a severe financial crisis. Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on Gaza, causing widespread misery among its residents. Over the years, Israel and Hamas entered into ceasefires that eased the blockade in exchange for halting rocket attacks.
The Lebanon Model
Israel’s invasions of southern Lebanon in 1978 and 1982 led to an 18-year occupation enforced through the South Lebanon Army (SLA), a local ally. Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, was founded during this period and eventually pushed Israeli forces out of the country. Today, Hezbollah is considered a major threat by Israel.
While Israel has stated that it does not want to reoccupy Gaza, it also emphasizes the need for troops to have freedom of operation in the area. Some officials have discussed creating a buffer zone along the border, while others have called for the return of the Palestinian Authority. Additionally, Prime Minister Netanyahu has suggested that any future arrangement for Gaza should be contingent on calming Israel’s northern front with Hezbollah and the West Bank.
In conclusion, Israel’s plan to maintain security responsibility in Gaza after removing Hamas from power is likely to face opposition and risks fueling an insurgency. The history of Israeli military presence in the region has led to uprisings and the rise of Hamas. Finding a long-term solution that addresses Israel’s security needs while respecting Palestinian rights and aspirations for statehood remains a complex challenge.