Mar 29, 2024 - World

Israel proposes regional security force in Gaza

Palestinians hold pots in line

Palestinians line up to receive food aid in Deir al Balah, central Gaza. Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty

During his visit to Washington this week, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant raised the possibility of establishing a multi-national military force with troops from Arab countries to improve law and order in Gaza and escort humanitarian aid convoys, two senior Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters
: Israel is under pressure to improve the distribution of aid in Gaza, which the UN says is on the verge of famine. Israeli officials also believe a multi-national force could help in establishing an alternative to Hamas rule in the enclave.

  • "Such a move will build a governing body in the enclave that is not Hamas and will address Israel's growing problem with the U.S. when it comes to the humanitarian situation in Gaza," a senior Israeli official said.
  • Gallant asked for U.S. political and material support for such an initiative — though not American boots on the ground — in meetings with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Tony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan.

Zoom in: According to the Israeli officials, the proposal is for an Arab force to stay in Gaza for a limited transition period and be responsible for securing the temporary pier that the U.S. will build off the coast and for escorting humanitarian convoys so that aid reaches the population, will not be looted, and will not be under the control of Hamas.

Behind the Scenes: Israeli military and defense officials discussed the issue in recent weeks with representatives from three Arab countries, including Egypt, a senior Israeli official said. The discussions included visits by Israeli officials to those countries.

  • "There is progress in promoting this initiative both in terms of the willingness of the Biden administration to discuss it and in terms of the openness of Arab countries to the idea," the Israeli official said.

The other side: An Arab official from one of the countries pitched on the idea said Gallant seems to have misunderstood the Arab position.

  • Arab countries are not ready to send troops to secure aid convoys at the moment, but might consider sending troops for a peacekeeping force after the war, the official said.
  • Even then, the force would have to be under U.S. command and be assembled in the context of working toward a two-state solution, according to the Arab official.

A senior U.S. official said the multi-national force idea came up during Blinken's talks with foreign ministers from several Arab countries in Cairo last week.

  • The U.S. official said Egypt is the main country considering the idea, but that it would require an official invitation from the Palestinian Authority to send Arab forces to Gaza and come in the political context of a two-state solution.
  • The U.S. official applauded the creativity of the idea, but said the chances of promoting it in the near-term are relatively low, partly due to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's opposition to the involvement of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and to a two-state solution.
  • Egypt's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

What's next: Gallant and other senior Israeli defense officials are expected to hold follow-up talks on the proposal with the U.S. and the prospective Arab participants, the Israeli officials said.

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