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Gaza One Year From Now

The temptation of the Diaspora to be prescriptive can be challenging because we want to be involved in some outsized way; it comes from love, but it’s an impertinent instinct that needs to be tempered. What follows is impertinent because I fear Jerusalem isn’t seeing some possibilities.

Israel did not choose this war, Israel did not expect this war, and Israel cannot be blamed for not having a thought-out end game. Is there a file cabinet full of scenarios for this in a cabinet somewhere? Sure. Mike Tyson famously said, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth,” and that applies to states more than boxers. It could be Israel is planning complete, permanent administrative control and doesn’t want to say so, but more likely, Jerusalem hasn’t decided and is more focused on winning the war.

A lack of direction can create immediate and post-war problems. International support for the war is already embarrassingly weak, but the US remains more than a stalwart, and the Abraham Accords are still in place, as are both peace treaties. Goodwill without something more to buy into will become more challenging for allies to sustain. Without an announced plan, calls for a ceasefire are gaining currency. Worse still, all the precedents for a post-war Gaza are terrible. Peace cannot be modeled after the peace treaties Israel has signed, the Oslo Accords or the Abraham Accords, nor is the uneasy arrangement with Ramallah reproducible, trustworthy, or desirable. Putting an unwilling Ramallah in charge of something after their most seasoned Gazan representatives were thrown off a roof a decade ago can’t succeed, and they don’t seem interested. A different approach is needed, which will take commitment but could realize some great results and be a model and a warning to other places.

Once Israel has control of Gaza and has eliminated Hamas from power, it would be a great idea to bring back the death penalty and use it against the worst of the worst. Some of these trials can be televised. Let Hamas say in its own words to the world what its crimes are. With that, a formal de-Hamasification program to arrest every Hamas member and keep them out of politics after serving their time but alongside a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission where people can admit and repudiate their crimes in exchange for not being held accountable for what they admit to. During that time, Israel will find local talent block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, town by town, to run Gaza and work toward highly localized elections. The PA and Fatah could run aligned candidates, but nothing about this should be geared towards them.

Israeli and trusted Palestinian firms should get all the rebuilding contracts with some allowance for outside benefactors who are trusted. That would effectively exclude Qatar and Turkiye. Alongside the rebuilding and the local development, Israel should impose a democratic government that acknowledges and pays for its crimes modeled after post-war West Germany. In the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, there was no mention of compensation for crimes against humanity, and the reason was Israel needed the treaties more than it needed justice. The opposite is true today; Israel needs justice more than it needs a government in Gaza. Not fighting Hamas has been a disaster for everyone, so any kind of peace will need to be more comprehensive.

On reparations, the Gazans descend from the Damascus Eyalet. Israel should do its best to tally Gaza’s share of crimes against Jews since then until now, including the Hebron Massacre, ethnic cleansing, Nazi collaboration, the Silent Exodus, and every act of terror which could include them, come off with what their share would cost and make that the basis of reparations which will follow the growth the Gazan economy but never choke it. The reparations should also be contingent upon a national reconciliation in Gaza, where responsibility for these crimes is taught in schools. This will be a warning to Jordan and Egypt to keep their peace. This would also be a model to keep on the shelf for Ramallah. The world will howl at real de-hamasification, but Gaza will be a much better place for it in a few generations.

Israel should declare its sovereignty over Gaza, but with an Arab democratic regime and an imposed constitution in place, peace is possible. Israel could grant an Arab government an area of Gaza as a grant in perpetuity provided it doesn’t make war, doesn’t have an army, and never commits to acts of terror or finances acts of terror against Israel. Any violation could lead Israel to assert its sovereignty, depose the government, and even annex the land.

These suggestions are very heavy-handed but not as heavy-handed as over a hundred years of atrocities and genocides. These suggestions are appropriate because they give Israel a goal-orientated path to manage Gaza and a road map to leave with a much better situation in place or if Gazans can’t do what is needed to discover that as well. There’s a lot of talk about bringing in figureheads and other regional governments or the PA, but none of those seem realistic to me. Mohammed Dahlan would be the best person for that, but I don’t think that is realistic; even discussing possibilities comes at the expense of future credibility for whoever gets involved.

However Israel chooses to deal with postwar Gaza, I hope a workable direction emerges sooner rather than later, whatever that direction turns out to be. I hope Gaza, one year from now, will be deeply frustrated by coming to terms with its crimes, will find hope in rebuilding and enjoying civil liberties, and will be on track for a genuine reconciliation with Israel that will lead to a dignified existence for everyone. Most of all, I hope the atrocities of Hamas remain in the past, and the survivors and families of the massacre and war are healing.

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