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What Comes Next in Gaza? Here Are Some Options — and the Best Solution

An Israeli military convoy moves inside the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Israel, June 17, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Discussions about the future of Gaza are being conducted in isolation, without comparative discourse, and the political dimension is causing opinions to harden rather than remain open and flexible.

Thus, for example, the head of the INSS Institute wrote on May 29 that, “An alternative civil address in Gaza [is] the need of the hour” and opened with the words, “There is no time,” while Gabi Siboni from the Mishgav Institute said on May 24 that, “We need to enter the Strip and take control of all humanitarian aid in Gaza.” And so on.

There are several alternatives for the future of Gaza, and in this article I will present five of them. A choice will be made through a comparative discussion of their costs and benefits. Constructive strategic planning creates maximum flexibility for decision makers, and optimal conduct would be to implement close alternatives that all serve Israel’s strategic goals.

Before presenting the options, we must define the Israeli goals and interests according to which they will be examined. I propose that Israel’s goals and interests should be prioritized thus:

Destroying Hamas’s military capability: This is the key strategic need. Israel’s long-term position in the region depends on its delivering the clear message that anyone who carries out a criminal attack like that of October 7 will, at the very least, lose their military capabilities and their ability to harm Israel for a very long time.
Abolition of Hamas control in Gaza: Following on from the first consideration, Israel must strive to ensure that any party — especially a terrorist organization — that carries out murderous attacks against Israel will lose its rule and its leaders will lose their lives. Between the statement that it is impossible to eliminate an idea, especially a radical one, and the statement that the existence of Hamas in any form, including a civilian one, should be protested, there are many shades of possibility, a significant one of which should be the abolition of Hamas control.
Relations with the United States: Every alternative should take into account the strategic need to maintain good relations with the United States over time. This is a complex consideration against the background of American domestic politics. There can be disagreements, even difficult ones, with the American administration, but Israeli insistence on its positions should be part of a healthy relationship between the countries despite occasional extreme asymmetry. An Israel that pleases the Americans time and time again will lose its position in the United States. With that said, however, it is important to respect American global interests and help to promote them.
The return of the abductees: This is an important issue, but as it is not an existential necessity, it does not meet the same level of importance as the previous considerations. The return of the abductees is a matter of moral and value considerations but not strategic ones. The reality is that there is no scope for a comprehensive deal with Hamas because Sinwar’s personal fate depends on his holding the hostages. He will continue to hold them as long as possible until he has another survival option. Efforts to return the abductees through operational means or through local deals should be continued in every way.
The issue of the northern front and dealings with Iran: This consideration is also complex. Hezbollah has said it will not stop firing on the north and will not allow the return of the displaced residents without the cessation of fighting in Gaza. But for Israel, the cessation of fighting in Gaza without the achievement of its objectives against Hamas would represent serious damage to its deterrence against it and against Iran. This is an impasse that can be resolved with either a wider-scale war, which would severely damage Hezbollah’s capabilities; or an informal arrangement that Hassan Nasrallah can present as an achievement or as a “non-cessation” of the fighting while the war in Gaza continues. Because of this impasse, this consideration has been relegated to a relatively low place, though in principle it is more fundamental.
Approaching the moderate regional countries, with an emphasis on Saudi Arabia: The war in Gaza, the escalation with Iran, and the incessant Houthi attacks, only strengthen the region’s understanding of the need to join forces with Israel. While the delay in implementation stems from public opinion and American interests, it seems that it will eventually continue, and Israel’s continued military achievements against Hamas strengthen the likelihood that it will come to fruition. This consideration, therefore, has less influence on the choice between the alternatives.
The issue of Israel’s legitimacy: In this area there is a gap. While in the short and medium term Israel’s legitimacy is under pressure from international institutions, in the long term, the gap — if not the abyss — between the false and politicized accusations against Israel and the actual situation on the ground will be revealed. Although the war is creating negative images, it is one of the “cleanest” wars in history in terms of the proportion of combatants to civilians killed and the amount of humanitarian aid entering Gaza. Therefore, despite the need to continue to fight resolutely and place the blame for the consequences on Hamas, in choosing alternatives, this is a less influential concern.

There are second-order considerations. These include resources (the economic cost of each option); legal (Israel’s obligations towards Gaza within the framework of international law and how they are realized); and social (the impact on each option on national resilience, though in my view this is included in each consideration). It would be better for these considerations to affect the means of carrying out the preferred option and less the actual choice.

Now that the seven main considerations have been defined, the five alternatives can be defined and examined:

The Hamas alternative: In this option, the fighting in Gaza stops and the IDF withdraws from it in exchange for the release of the abductees and the cessation of fighting in the north. A militarily weakened Hamas returns to control the Strip. This option is being promoted by some of the families of abductees and several opposition elements to the government, and the American administration may also support it for internal political reasons. In examining this choice against the balance of considerations, it is clear that while it might achieve the release of the abductees and the cessation of fighting in the north and might be perceived as a good move in terms of relations with the United States, it would substantially harm Israel’s core strategic need to destroy Hamas’s military capacity and abolish its control in Gaza. The notion that this option would lead to a comprehensive solution to the issue of the abductees and the Hezbollah challenge is questionable. It is more likely that the fighting would resume under less favorable conditions for Israel.
The revitalized Palestinian Authority alternative: In parallel with continued military damage to the military capabilities of Hamas and its government, a governmental and security alternative would be built that would include a revitalized Palestinian Authority with the integration of local elements and the backing and involvement of a coalition of Arab and Western countries. This “nation-building” alternative is being promoted by the United States and European countries in apparent collaboration with Arab countries, as well as by elements in Israel who give too much weight to the official American position. This option promotes American and possibly regional considerations (it is too early to say whether the Arab position is real or the artificial product of American pressure), but there is a big question mark over how much it would be able to provide a real answer to the core considerations of harming Hamas and preventing its re-establishment. It also provides no broad response to the issues of the abductees and the challenge in the north.
The military-civilian alternative: In this option, Israel continues to hit the Hamas organization, both in its military capabilities and in its governance, until it is sufficiently weakened to allow local Palestinian elements to replace it on the ground, with considerable regional and international backing. This alternative is being promoted by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and is reflected in key components of the cabinet’s decisions. This option provides a good answer to the core considerations of harming Hamas, and might even be tacitly accepted by the Americans and Arab and international actors. It does not, however, provide a solution to the problems of freeing the abductees and the fighting in the north.
The “chaos” alternative: Here, Israel continues to strike at the Hamas organization, both in its military capabilities and in its governance, and at the same time allows local, regional, and international parties to create governmental alternatives on the ground that may mature into a comprehensive governmental alternative. This option was given expression in the opinion that called (at least at the beginning of the war) for the “Somalization” of Gaza, meaning a kind of supervised, partially independent nation-building. This alternative would allow Israel to define what would not happen, and others to decide what is possible. It provides a good answer to Israel’s core considerations in terms of Hamas, but would be difficult for the Americans and the regional and international actors to digest. It also does not solve the problems of the abductees and the north.
The sovereignty alternative: Israel imposes a total military government on Gaza, applies its full military and security control over the Strip, and perhaps occupies and even annexes parts of it. This option is being promoted by the right wing of the government. While it provides a good answer to the core considerations in terms of Hamas and might even bring gains on the issue of the abductees, it would make relations with the United States as well as other considerations very difficult.

The alternatives for the future of Gaza clearly entail a complex discussion. It is likely possible to move between alternatives and merge them according to developments. As of today, the option that best balances Israel’s considerations is the military-civilian one. The most problematic are the Hamas option and the sovereignty option. It is appropriate and correct to continue a complex comparative discussion on Israel’s considerations and the alternatives to achieve them and to avoid perceptual and political attachment to any one of them. 

Col. (res.) Shay Shabtai is a senior researcher at the BESA Center and an expert in national security, strategic planning, and strategic communication. He is a cyber security strategist and a consultant to leading companies in Israel. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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