Feb 22, 2024 - World

Bibi's post-war plan: No reconstruction in Gaza without demilitarization

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's post-war plan for Gaza, which was unveiled Thursday, doesn't rule out a role for the Palestinian Authority and stresses Israel will only allow reconstruction to take place after the enclave is demilitarized.

Why it matters: It's the first time Netanyahu has presented any written position on his plans for the day after the war in Gaza. But the principles laid out in Thursday's document are short on concrete details and largely based on Netanyahu's public statements from the last few months.

State of play: The document, also provided to ministers of Netanyahu's Cabinet, presents several principles as a basis for discussions on the issue, Netanyahu's office said.

  • A senior Netanyahu aide said the goal was to present principles that would get the broadest consensus possible but said the consultations in the Cabinet will likely lead to changes before the policy is approved.

The big picture: The principles in the document broadly address several key areas for post-war Gaza and Israel.

IDF presence and Gaza's borders: According to the plan, the Israel Defense Forces will indefinitely maintain freedom of operation across the entire Gaza Strip — a position Netanyahu has voiced in the past.

  • Israel will create a "security zone" within Gaza's territory bordering Israel "for as long as there is a security need for it," the plan states.
  • Israel will also control the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, operating there "as much as possible in cooperation with Egypt and with the assistance of the U.S." to prevent smuggling from the Egyptian side of the border, including through the Rafah crossing.

Demilitarization: The Gaza Strip will be completely demilitarized except for weapons that are "necessary to maintain public order," the document says.

  • Israel will be responsible for monitoring the demilitarization of the enclave and ensuring it isn't violated.
  • Netanyahu also wants to implement a plan for what he calls the de-radicalization of all religious, educational and welfare institutions in the Gaza Strip. This plan will be implemented "as much as possible with the involvement and assistance of Arab countries that have experience in promoting de-radicalization in their territory," the document states.

Reconstruction: The document stresses that the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip will only be possible after the completion of the demilitarization process and the beginning of the de-radicalization process — a position Netanyahu hadn't expressed publicly before.

  • "[T]he reconstruction plans will be carried out with the financing and leadership of countries acceptable to Israel," the document states.
  • Reality check: No country so far has agreed to finance the reconstruction of Gaza and many countries said they won't do it without a clear political horizon for the Palestinians.
  • Netanyahu appears to allude to the involvement of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the reconstruction and de-radicalization efforts. But the two Gulf countries have made it clear publicly and in private messages to Netanyahu that they would not be involved in any "day after" plan in Gaza if it doesn't include a path for a Palestinian state.

Governance: The document doesn't clearly state who Netanyahu envisions governing Gaza after the war, but says "local elements with management experience" will be responsible for civilian management and public order in Gaza.

  • These elements "will not be identified with countries or entities that support terrorism and will not receive payment from them," the document states.
  • Between the lines: Unlike Netanyahu's previous statements, the document does not rule out the Palestinian Authority as playing a role in the management of Gaza, though it doesn't specifically mention the PA either.
  • The Biden administration is pushing for a "revitalized" Palestinian Authority to play a role in governing the enclave.

Closing UNRWA: Netanyahu also wants the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the biggest supplier of aid in Gaza, to close down and be replaced with other international aid agencies.

  • Israel claims UNRWA workers were involved in the Oct. 7 attack. The UN has launched an independent investigation into the agency and the allegations.
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