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ConflictsMiddle East

How Israel plans to run postwar Gaza

February 25, 2024

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented his plan for governing Gaza after the war, which involves full military control and shutting down the Palestinian relief organization UNRWA. Here's what we know so far.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, center, wears a protective vest and helmet as he receives a security briefing with commanders and soldiers in Gaza
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented plans for Gaza after the war to his security cabinet for the first timeImage: Avi Ohayon/GPO/Handout via AP/picture alliance

For the first time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented his Security Cabinet with a plan for managing the Gaza Strip after the end of the war against the militant Islamist group Hamas.

The Israel-Hamas war began after the Hamas terror attacks on Israel on October 7. According to Israeli figures, around 1,160 people were killed, and some 250 hostages were taken to Gaza. Israel believes that around 130 hostages are still being held by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union, Israel and other states.

The Palestinian death toll since the start of the war has exceeded 29,500, with close to 70,000 wounded, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. Widespread destruction has led to dire humanitarian conditions.

An Israeli soldier in a tank in February 2024
Israel wants to exercise full military control over Gaza after the warImage: Tsafrir Abayov/AP Photo/picture alliance

Who will govern?

The loosely worded plan states that Gaza should be administered by "local officials" who have administrative experience and would "not be identified with countries or entities that support terrorism and will not receive payment from them."

The Palestinian Authority, which currently governs the occupied West Bank, is not mentioned in the paper, but also not explicitly ruled out.

Israeli military to handle security

According to national dailies The Times of Israel and Haaretz, the Israeli military would take over security control of the entire Gaza Strip. This would mean the dismantling of all Hamas military structures and grant unlimited freedom for Israeli military operations.

Media reports also said Israel hopes a new road dividing the Gaza Strip into north and south would improve security control. But observers fear Israel could also use this road to prevent Palestinian refugees who fled to the south at the beginning of the war from returning to the north.

People gather around destroyed buildings in Rafa, Gaza Strip in February 2024
According to a US media report, around 70% of the houses and apartments in Gaza have been destroyed by Israeli bombingImage: Hatem Ali/AP Photo/picture alliance

Haaretz reported that the plan also includes the establishment of a buffer zone between Gaza and Israel, which would be controlled by the Israeli army, with no civilians allowed to return. Such a buffer zone would reduce the already cramped habitable area in the enclave.

Israel also wants to operate a "southern closure" on the border between Egypt and Gaza to curb smuggling into the area, The Times of Israel reported.

An end to the UNRWA?

Another postwar aim is the closure of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which Netanyahu has accused of being infiltrated by Hamas.

A Palestinian man holds a flour bag as others wait to receive theirs from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency
UNRWA provides vital aid to millions of people across the Middle East, and it has been the main supplier of food, water and shelter to civilians in the Gaza conflictImage: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS

He has alleged that several employees of the aid organization were involved in the October 7 attacks. The UN has dismissed those in question and initiated internal investigations. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including the United States and Germany, have suspended their payments to UNRWA.

Far-right demands

Netanyahu did not accommodate demands made by far-right ministers in his cabinet. Among other things, they had called for Gaza to be used for Israeli settlers. Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir had also called for the Palestinian population to be settled outside Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Jerusalem in early February 2024
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) has backed a two-state solution, but Netanyahu has consistently rejected the ideaImage: Amos Ben-Gershom/dpa/picture alliance

The prime minister had already rejected the idea to use the Gaza Strip for settlements in January. The plan was criticized by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said that expanding settlements in Palestinian territories would prevent peace.

No two-state solution

Netanyahu continues to reject a two-state solution, despite urging from international supporters including the US. Washington has also backed a reorganized Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas, who would be tasked with taking back the administration of Gaza.

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority rejected Netanyahu's plan.

"Gaza will only be part of the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," he said, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

"If the world wants security and stability in the region, it must end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and recognize the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," he added.

This article was originally written in German.

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Silja Thoms Senior Editor and Reporter