Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu presents a post war Gaza plan

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu presents a post-war Gaza plan

  • By Jenny Hill
  • BBC News, Jerusalem

February 23, 2024

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Under Mr. Netanyahu's plan, Palestinians without ties to armed groups would rule Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has outlined his vision for a post-war Gaza Strip.

Under his plan, Israel would control security indefinitely and Palestinians without ties to anti-Israel groups would govern the area.

The US, Israel's main ally, wants the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) to rule Gaza after the war.

But the short document presented to ministers by Mr Netanyahu last night makes no mention of the PA.

He had previously ruled out a post-war role for the internationally supported body.

He imagines a “demilitarized” Gaza Strip; Israel would be responsible for withdrawing all military capabilities beyond those necessary for public order.

There would be a “southern closure” on the territory’s border with Egypt to prevent smuggling both underground and above ground.

And “de-radicalization” programs would be promoted in all religious, educational and welfare institutions. The document suggests that Arab countries with experience in such programs would be involved, although Mr. Netanyahu did not specify which ones.

Under the plan, Israel would also maintain security control over the entire area west of Jordan by land, sea and air.

Mr. Netanyahu has been under pressure at home and abroad to release proposals for Gaza since the start of his military operation. He is eager to restore a crumbling reputation as a leader who can ensure Israel's security and will want to appeal to right-wing hardliners in his coalition government.

A spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, said Mr Netanyahu's plan was doomed to fail.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh said: “If the world is truly interested in security and stability in the region, it must end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land and recognize an independent Palestinian state.”

Mr. Netanyahu reiterated his opposition to any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by Western countries.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US opposed Israel's reoccupation of the Gaza Strip and any reduction in the size of the territory.

“Gaza… cannot be a platform for terrorism. There should be no renewed occupation of Gaza by Israel. The size of the Gaza territory should not be reduced,” he said at a G20 ministerial meeting in Argentina.

Meanwhile, negotiators are expected to meet in Paris to negotiate a temporary ceasefire and the release of Israeli hostages.

The US wants to reach an agreement before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan begins in just over two weeks.

And as the humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens, there is also international pressure to end the war. The Hamas-run Health Ministry reports that more than 29,500 people, mostly women and children, have been killed since the war began in October.

The Israeli military offensive was triggered by Hamas's unprecedented attack on October 7, in which gunmen killed about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and brought 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

Overnight, the head of the UN body responsible for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) warned that Gaza was facing a “monumental catastrophe with serious implications for peace, security and human rights in the region”.

In a letter to the president of the UN General Assembly, Philippe Lazzarini said the organization “has reached a breaking point with Israel's repeated calls for the dissolution of UNRWA and the freezing of donor funding at a time of unprecedented humanitarian needs in Gaza.”

Some of Unrwa's biggest donors stopped funding the organization last month after Unrwa fired several of its employees because Israel accused them of involvement in the October attacks.

Mr Netanyahu intends to close the agency as part of his post-war plan and replace it with – as yet unspecified – international aid agencies.

And he has insisted he will continue his war until Israel dismantles Hamas and Islamic Jihad – the second largest armed group in Gaza – and returns all Israeli hostages.

In late 2023, Mr. Netanyahu warned that the war could continue for “many more months.”

Meanwhile, the US described Israel's settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank as incompatible with international law.

“Our government remains firmly opposed to settlement expansion, and in our view this only weakens Israel’s security, not strengthens it,” Blinken said.

It reverses a 2019 move by the Trump administration that was welcomed by Israel when then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that Washington no longer viewed settlements as a violation of international law.