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What will become of the Gaza Strip?

While the two-state solution is near consensus internationally, it is rejected by Hamas and Israel's current government. And so the USA is already conducting simulation games for the period after Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Jan Christoph Kitzler

Heavy fighting continues in the Gaza Strip. Not just in the south, but also in the north. They show that the war, which began on October 7th with the attack by Hamas and other terrorist organizations, is not over any time soon.

There are reports that 20 to 30 percent of armed fighters in the Gaza Strip have been killed since the war began. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the US estimates that Hamas has enough ammunition to continue the war for months.

Israel's political and military leadership never tires of emphasizing that the war will continue until the goals are achieved: security for Israel's citizens, the defeat of Hamas and the release of the hostages. And Chief of General Staff Herzi Halvi also expects a longer war. He recently said there was “no shortcut” to dismantling Hamas.

Demonstrators demand an end to the fighting

But there are those in Israel who want the fighting in the Gaza Strip to stop. There are protests almost every day in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities, even in front of the home of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister.

The demonstrators don't really think about a future for the Gaza Strip and the people there; they usually don't have in mind the suffering of the civilian population with the many dead and injured since the outbreak of the war: they want the hostages who are still in the Gaza Strip to finally be released are – now for more than 100 days.

“Nobody wants to go over Peace solutions ponder”

Israel has been a traumatized country since October 7th. Nowhere is this more clear than in the protests by the relatives of the hostages and the dead. Also with a view to the people who are currently taking to the streets in Israel, Izchak Herzog, Israel's President, found clear words at the World Economic Forum in Davos when he described the mood that, in his opinion, currently prevails in Israel.

“If you ask an average Israeli how he or she is feeling, then no one wants to think about peace solutions,” said Herzog. “Because everyone wants to know whether we can be promised real security in the future. Every Israeli wants to be sure that they will not be attacked in the same way from the north, south or east. But the truth is: we are fighting a war for the whole Universe, for the free world.”

But “the free world”, especially the USA, but also Germany and other European countries, are pushing for a perspective for the time after the war. And given these considerations, the topic of the two-state solution is currently gaining momentum again. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has said what he believes is the prerequisite for this: the right of the Palestinians to build their own state must be recognized by everyone. Anything else would prolong the conflict in the Middle East and would be a threat to peace and security worldwide.

The USA is calling for the prospect of a Palestinian state, and the federal government is also talking about this. Likewise, there are people in Israel and the Palestinian territories who, right now, want to think about what coexistence in the region might look like after the war. But they are a minority.

Hamas and Israel's government against Two-state solution

And so where a two-state solution should actually be implemented, total rejection dominates. For Hamas, which has so far controlled the Gaza Strip, this is linked to the rejection of the state of Israel. Khalid Mashal, one of the terrorist organization's political leaders who lives abroad, has just denied Israel's right to exist again in a podcast. He called for a Palestine from the Mediterranean to the Jordan. He therefore rejects a two-state solution.

He has this in common with Netanyahu, who, however, sees it the other way around: for him, as he has repeatedly emphasized in the past few days, there is no place for a Palestinian state in the Middle East – not even in the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu's right-wing extremist coalition partners not only want to prevent a Palestinian state, they also have concrete plans for the Gaza Strip after the war. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has spoken out in favor of new Jewish settlements there. Itamar Ben-Gvir, Minister of National Security, even wants to force the exodus of the Palestinian population. He calls it “voluntary migration.”

Offer from Saudi Arabia

While rejection or at least great skepticism about the two-state solution prevails in Israel and the Palestinian territories, it seems to have almost become a kind of consensus internationally.

This can also be seen in statements from the Arab world: Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, spoke out at the World Economic Forum in Davos in favor of a process that would strengthen the Palestinian Authority, which was once the beginning of a Palestinian should be a state. If things continue like this, he said, there would continue to be suffering in the Gaza Strip and a cycle of escalation.

There is now an offer on the table. These include an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages and Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. It's about normalization agreements for Israel with states like Saudi Arabia – all in exchange for a two-state solution. Because Israel's government rejects this, the US government in Washington is apparently already planning simulations for a time after Netanyahu, in the event that his government collapses due to the war.

Hardly any trust in Autonomous authority

But the question is also who could lead possible negotiations on the Palestinian side: The autonomous authority under its 88-year-old President Mahmoud Abbas has minimal approval ratings among its own population and is considered so dilapidated and corrupt that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently declared , it needs to be completely renovated.

Nevertheless, in Davos he spoke out in favor of the major solution in the Middle East for the period after the war: Without a Palestinian state, there would be no real integration of Israel into the Middle East and no security, said the US Secretary of State.

But how this will come about given the great resistance there where a two-state solution would have to be implemented remains unclear. US President Joe Biden also remained cryptic on this issue. He just said that there are “several proposals for a two-state solution.” Whatever that means.

Jan-Christoph Kitzler, ARD Tel Aviv, tagesschau, January 22nd, 2024 7:40 p.m

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