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December 08, 2023

The Day After Hamas [Diogenes]

The human toll of the Israel-Hamas war has been horrific. The loss of life, the trauma, and the level of destruction in the Strip is going to profoundly influence of both Gazans and Israelis for the next generation. Further, the economic costs of the war will be in the billions and even amortized over the next decade, it is going to impact Israel’s economic future. Gaza too but it's not like they had much of an economy to begin with.

But, out of this mess, what’s next? What happens once Hamas is gone?
Unlike my previous posts with CBD, this one is really open to speculation as I certainly do not claim to know the answers and most of the Horde is just as good as I am about predicting the future. In short, we just don’t know what will happen, but it will be enlightening to see how it plays out.

So what do we know? The brief ceasefire allowed pundits to report their observations and the news is indeed grim. The United Nations Office (sure…they’re reliable) for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said that more than 1.8 million people have been displaced from their homes since Israel’s campaign began. (Notice how they say it’s Israel’s campaign?) If true, that means that nearly every person in Gaza has been displaced and that just hasn’t happened…yet. My own personal estimate is about half of that, with most from Northern Gaza and Gaza City. Further, another highly reliable source (sarc), the Gaza Health Ministry, states that more than 14,000 Gazans — roughly 40% of them under 18 — have been killed in Israel’s military operation. I don’t think anyone has any idea how many have died, much less their ages, and likely we won’t know for some months ahead. But we do understand the fighting has been intense and brutal. Such is the nature of war.

So…assuming victory, what is Israel to do? And let me say here, victory, while highly probable, is not assured. No war goes according to plan and this one won’t either. Yes, the IDF has recovered from the Hamas attack and is clearly having its way on the battlefield, but as they move south and slice and dice Gaza, the opportunity and the urge for other regional States, the US, and/or the UN, to poke their noses in may be inevitable. How will Netanyahu’s government react? Can the rest of the world force Israel to stop yet again? Time will tell.

I would offer that Step One is to obviously and once goals are met, stop fighting. This however, is not as easy as it sounds nor is it just declaring a ceasefire. Israel’s clear goal seems to be, total victory, and rightly so, followed by unconditional surrender by the Palestinians. Of course, that requires some Palestinian entity to legitimately represent the Palis in any surrender. In previous posts, I have said that I believe that at some level, the Israeli government has, or had, some contact with the administrators of the de facto Gazan State, even if working through an intermediary. I also have assumed that this contact has continued throughout the fighting. If so, then it is logical that at some point this group becomes the Gazan representatives to sign the surrender. If not, then a puppet representative is good enough. I truly believe the Israeli’s are Machiavellian enough to work this way. The Palestinians though…? Perhaps, as CBD has told me, I overestimate the Palestinians. He could be right.

Even with no such group, the IDF will stop fighting when they believe their goals have been achieved. Those goals have been clearly laid out by the Netanyahu government: Destroy Hamas, Demilitarize Gaza, and De-radicalize the enclave. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant refines this a bit. He said war with Hamas falls into three phases: the first continues the current bombardment and ground operations aimed at “neutralizing terrorists and destroying Hamas infrastructure”; the second phase involves lower intensity fighting to eliminate “pockets of resistance” in Gaza; and the third is the “removal of Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip and the establishment of a new security reality” for Israelis. He stressed this point: Israel would no longer have “responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip” once the war was over. This is telling.

And notice this doesn’t say much about rebuilding.

Israel has informed several Arab states that it wants to carve out a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of Gaza's border to prevent future attacks as part of proposals for an enclave after war ends. These states include Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and through intermediaries, Saudi Arabia. Interestingly, no Arab state has shown any willingness to police or administer Gaza in the future. That may change if the UN waves enough of our money at them.

Going back to my thoughts…along with someone to sign a surrender, I have always thought a “mini-Marshall Plan for the Strip in conjunction with a De-Hamasization Plan would be the way to rebuild. Who would oversee it is a big question, one that likely has no answer. But given the strident tone of Defense Minister Gallant’s comments, Israel may settle for crushing the Palestinians and leaving them to their own devices. Not, in my opinion, a good long term choice, but perhaps the best short-term one. Netanyahu wants to de-radicalizing the Strip. That, I think, will take far longer than this war. A whole generation perhaps.

So what do you do with 1.8 million (minus a few tens of thousands) defeated people? As pointed out in comments on Tuesday, Northern Gaza is essentially uninhabitable. It is a wasteland. We are seeing indication that the IDF is carving Gaza into five sectors for combat. Each will face its own destruction. The IDF can crush the Palis, build the barrier, and leave them. They can crush the Palis and institute a policy of laissez-faire servitude to rebuild Gaza…work to rebuild and you get food, water and a place to sleep. (Probably would not be popular in the West but it might actually work.) They can crush the Palis and set up the infrastructure to reestablish the basics of water, electricity, and food and then leave them. Or they can tell the Islamic states and/or the UN to come clean it up. Easily the worst solution for the Palis. Neither the Israelis nor the UN wants to see a Pali holocaust, although the Arab states might not care.

We shall see.

God help us if the Administration starts letting them resettle in the US.
Again, the Horde can create concepts and ideas on his as well as I can. What do you see on The Day After Hamas? I’m looking forward to your input.

["Diogenes" has multiple graduate degrees with a focus on the Middle East, and an Army Intelligence Officer graduate of both the Army and USMC Command and Staff Colleges.]

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