The aftermath of an Israeli strike on Gaza City on Oct. 26. Credit: Omar El-Qattaa/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
This opinion was originally publish as part of the HPN initiative, which is created to share Humanitarian practitioners' and researcher's insights on the situation in Gaza
In the wake of the 2023 Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, a discernible shift is emerging in policy discussions, with Western leaders increasingly focused on the crucial question of Gaza's post-'invasion' future. Whilst some may argue that discussing post-war planning before the implementation of a ceasefire is premature or unethical, it is vital to recognise that proactive planning is essential to avoid repeating past mistakes. Particularly, with the topic of post-war Gaza becoming central in policy discourse, and considering that Gaza's future security and governance will likely be key components in negotiations over any long-term ceasefire, engaging in these conversations now is both timely and necessary.
Historically, the post-war phases in Gaza following the conflicts of 2008–2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021 offer crucial lessons, but the ongoing events in 2023 present unique challenges. Amongst these is the attempt by Israel and the United States to shift the responsibility for Gaza's security and rebuilding onto Arab states, reshaping regional dynamics and raising questions about long-term stability in the Strip.
A critical aspect of this discourse is the concept of 'de-Hamasification'. Israel might have the military prowess to destroy Gaza's physical infrastructure, but resistance in Gaza is not merely a physical entity. Rather, it is an ingrained ideology and movement that cannot be eradicated through military might alone. This reality renders the notion of 'de-Hamasification' not only impractical but also counterproductive. Not only so, but the continued destruction of and onslaught in Gaza only serves to ensure that another Hamas-like movement will emerge should Israel truly succeed in its impossible aim to eradicate the group. Violence begets violence, and the majority of Hamas's fighters were themselves made orphans in the previous rounds of aggression in the Strip.
Moreover, the idea of passing governance responsibility to the Palestinian Authority seems like wishful thinking. Its struggles with effective governance and legitimacy in the West Bank underscore the gap between theoretical aspirations and the complex realities on the ground.
Reconstruction in Gaza is undeniably a collective responsibility, but there is a strong case for symbolically presenting the bill to Israel. This gesture would acknowledge the impact of its military actions on Gaza's infrastructure and civilian life.
Furthermore, Israel's plans, which imply a reduction of the territory of the Gaza Strip, are untenable in one of the world's most densely populated areas. A long-term ceasefire should, instead, involve the expansion of Palestinian living space. This is not just a fair approach but a necessary condition for restoring security and a semblance of normality, offering a more tenable solution than the ongoing blockade.
As Gaza's future is being shaped, it is crucial that these conversations reflect the realities on the ground and the lessons from the past. Only through a realistic, humane, and forward-thinking approach can a lasting solution be found for Gaza – one that goes beyond the ceasefire and addresses the root causes of the conflict.