As bombs rain on Gaza, what endgame awaits Palestine if Israel defeats Hamas

A Palestinian woman is lifted away in her wheelchair following an Israeli air strike on Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on November 3, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Hamas. — AFP Diplomats in Washington, the United Nations, the Middle East, and elsewhere have begun considering their choices for the “day after” if Hamas is overthrown, and they anticipate a difficult road ahead as Israeli forces step up their offensive against the Palestinian organisation in the Gaza Strip.

According to a source familiar with the situation, talks have included the temporary UN supervision of the territory, the deployment of a multinational force to post-conflict Gaza, an interim Palestinian-led government that would exclude Hamas politicians, and a temporary security and governance role for neighbouring Arab states.

The current state of the process is what another American source refers to as the “idea-floating stage.” The US, its Western allies, and the governments of the Arab world would be willing to deploy armed soldiers to stand between Israel and the Palestinians after a protracted period of hesitation. However, other crucial considerations are whether Israel can carry out its pledge to destroy Hamas.

There are “no plans or intentions” to place American troops on the ground in Gaza, according to the White House statement on Wednesday.

As the discussion picks up steam, Gaza health officials report that over 9,000 people have died in the 25-mile-long region that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians. 

Over 50% of Gaza’s populace has already been forced to flee their homes, overcrowded hospitals devoid of electricity and medical supplies are turning away injured patients, and gravediggers are running out of space in cemeteries.

Furthermore, it’s unclear if Hamas would be ready or able to seize power from the Palestinian Authority (PA), which currently controls only a small portion of the occupied West Bank while the PA maintains limited autonomy in Gaza. 

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hinted at the possibility of a “revitalised” PA; nonetheless, charges of corruption and poor management have dogged President Mahmoud Abbas’s administration.

Any organisation trying to establish itself in Gaza after the war would also have to deal with the Palestinians’ perception that it is under Israel’s control. It launched its offensive against Hamas in reprisal for the group’s horrific rampage on October 7, during which they killed 1,400 people in southern Israel and kidnapped over 200 more.

It would be nearly impossible to completely erase the pro-militant attitude from Gaza’s populace, even if Hamas leadership were to fall. This would increase the risk of fresh attacks, such as suicide bombs, against whoever comes to power.

“If the Israelis succeed in crushing Hamas, I think it’s going to be extremely difficult to get a governing structure in there that is going to be legitimate and functional,” said Aaron David Miller, a former US Middle East negotiator.

“The ‘day after’ exercises right now strikes me as fantastical,” Miller said.

The talks have intensified as Israel continues to attack Gaza from the air, land, and sea, but they have also been fueled by what American officials see to be Israel’s inability to provide a clear end goal thus far.

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