'Who is going to govern?': Uncertainty surrounds plans for Gaza after the war ends

National Security Council Admiral John Kirby, left, Gaza City (center), and the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron, right. Credit: AP

By ITV News' US Correspondent Dan Rivers and Washington News Editor Jonathan Wald 

As the second phase of the Israel military operation in Gaza continues around Khan Younis, many are wondering about the longer term strategy.

It’s clear Israel is not willing to accept Hamas continuing as the governing body in Gaza, but who should replace it?

Another Israeli occupation of this tiny sliver of land would risk leaving Israeli troops exposed to revenge attacks for years.

US President Joe Biden has clearly stated Israel should not re-occupy Gaza. So what is the plan?

I asked both the White House’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications, National Security Council Admiral John Kirby and the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron on Wednesday.

Their answers below show while there is a desire for a clear post-conflict vision, the reality right now is that there isn’t one. 

ITV News asked both the White House’s Coordinator for Strategic Communications, National Security Council Admiral John Kirby, and the Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron what happens next

Kirby also made it clear that the Palestinian Authority needs to be overhauled if it is to play any future role in governing Palestinians in Gaza. 

“We believe that one step in that direction, a good step in that direction, would be a reformed Palestinian Authority, a revitalized Palestinian Authority that is more credible to the Palestinian people,” he said.

One of the most experienced foreign policy experts on the Middle East is Aaron David Miller, who served for 24 years as a diplomat in the State Department and later as a government advisor on Arab-Israeli affairs to six Secretaries of State.

His assessment of the options is bleak.

Miller says the problem of who will govern Gaza once the war ends is complex. 

"If there is no one willing to throw their arms around this problem, it’ll be camp committees or gangs and family clans in a localised sense which deal with the security issue," he said.

When I ask if there is a role for the United Nations to step in he is frank.

He tells me getting any resolution through to legitimise such a UN force would involve "a struggle which will be long and hard fought."

"The Russians and Chinese are making hay off trashing Israel’s image, and by implication the United States. I don’t know if you can get a Security Council resolution that would create some sort of force."

He says: "Palestinian governance of Gaza is the way to go, but who is going to govern?"

He is damning of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud  Abbas’s legacy "he has no credibility … he controls 40 % of the West Bank, he can’t even protect his own constituents from the IDF and Israeli settlers … the PA is seen as a subcontractor for the State of Israel".

He thinks the Biden White House might be signaling privately to the Israelis "they have weeks not months" to conclude the war.

This ties in with other reports which asserted US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told the Israeli war cabinet it "didn’t have the credit" to pursue the war for months.

Palestinians look for survivors under destroyed buildings following Israeli airstrikes in northern Gaza Strip, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: AP

And the future of any two state solution?

He tells me: "I watched six America presidents when I joined the Department of State under Jimmy Carter and left under Bush 43 (George W) grapple with this problem.

"Breakthroughs happen when there is sufficient amounts of pain accompanied by sufficient amounts of gain and that’s where an external party, a mediator, the US could come in. But we’ve never had a situation like this."

He also thinks the "proverbial moment of truth may be coming in the US/Israeli relationship as the administration may have privately told the Israelis - this I don’t know, I am speculating - you have weeks, not months to conclude this campaign.

"The well of Biden’s deep and abiding regard for Israel is deep but it is not limitless."

It’s not clear for how long the war will continue, but there is a possibility it may end before any longer strategy is agreed.

If that happens, Gaza could sink even further into anarchy and hardship.

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