A Proposal For An Arab Trusteeship Council To Govern Gaza

A Proposal for an Arab Trusteeship Council to Govern Gaza
Published on October 19, 2023

Israel decided in 2005 it had no wish to risk lives and consume resources on administering Gaza. It withdrew its army and removed the Jewish settlements there.

Israel hoped a pragmatic government would emerge that would coexist with Israel and on building a decent life for the people of Gaza.

Instead, Hamas took over. Backed by Tehran, it has diverted billions of dollars in reconstruction and development money for Gazans to instead build missiles and tunnels and murder Jews. Hamas is equivalent to ISIS in its fanatical aims and sadistic brutality. It is lethal to its own people as well as Israel.

The United States now supports the elimination of Hamas. Israel has no choice but to do so. But what would come next?

The United States has challenged Israel to find an alternative to a renewed and ongoing Israeli occupation, which Israel itself does not desire. Yet Israel, under shock and under threat, has not yet begun to think through an alternative.

Here is a specific proposal. The aim is not only to end the immediate evil, but to create the conditions for overall peace, stability and prosperity in the Middle East.

  1. No peace is possible with Hamas. It is genocidally antisemitic. This position is foundational, not rhetorical or mutable. Waiting for the emergence of a “programmatic” version of Hamas is suicidally naive.

  2. Peace and cooperation are possible with most of Israel’s non-Iranian neighbours. They are militarily threatened by Iran, not Israel. For many in those countries, Iran’s version of Islam might be more problematic from the religious perspective than Israel’s Jewishness.

  3. Hamas’s attack was partly to prevent a Saudi deal and a long-term economic cooperation.

  4. Israel has no territorial claim to Gaza and no material, religious, or ideological interest in running it.

  5. Israel has vital moral and material interests in the emergence of a peaceful, demilitarized, and prosperous Gaza. If that can occur in the medium term, a long-term reconciliation of the Palestinians with Israel is achievable.

  6. As and when Hamas is evicted from power, Gaza will need some new form of government.

  7. The Palestinian authority probably cannot be trusted to take over Gaza. It is corrupt and lacked—and probably still lacks—credibility with a majority of the population in Gaza.

  8. There used to be a concept called trusteeship in international law, whereby foreign powers would govern a territory in its best interests until its final status is clarified at the wishes of its own people.

  9. The United Nations cannot be trusted to administer Gaza—any more than it has shown to be trustworthy to maintain strategic security in Southern Lebanon or to operate UNWRA in a manner that is effective for Palestinians and not hostile to Israel.

  10. Consider this alternative. After Hamas is evicted from power, there is an interim period, say five to 10 years, of governance over Gaza by an Arab Trusteeship Council. The Council members are appointed primarily by Arab states sympathetic to Israel and eager to see the people of Gaza thrive. This Council could include local Gaza representatives and a representative of the Palestinian Authority, but the majority would be representative of states like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

  11. The trusteeship agreement would be formal, agreed to by Israel, and unequivocally state its objectives, including: a: demilitarizing Gaza;  b: defining the sole purposes for which outside reconstruction and development money can be spent and requiring strict accounting; c: ensuring that the education system in Gaza is not contaminated by antisemitic hatred; d: promoting sound administration of Gaza, including providing for transparent and non-corrupt government, with significant safeguards for human rights, and conformity to the rule of law;  e: promoting the development of a real economy for Gaza, not one fuelled primarily by international subsidies.

  12. No state could participate in the trusteeship Council without having a peace agreement with Israel.

  13. In fact, the creation of the Council and Saudi participation in it could be part of a peace deal with Saudi Arabia. The deal could involve a reconstruction package from the Saudis for Gaza, which would help secure the support of the people of Gaza for the Council arrangement as an interim measure.

  14. Policing would be carried out by a force composed of Palestinians and members of the police forces of trusteeship states, under the direction of the Council.

  15. The net effect would be to remove Gaza from Iran’s influence and establish temporary control by a consortium of mostly Sunni states. The latter would be chosen from among those that are at least reasonably friendly to Israel and genuinely committed to good governance in Gaza.

  16. The definitive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be achieved in a series of steps. Compromises are even more painful if they are framed as permanent. But if practical peace, stability, and some prosperity can be achieved in the medium term in Gaza and the West Bank, an amicable and enduring resolution should be achievable with the Palestinians.

  17. While Israel is under severe military menace right now, it is not too early to think about how a positive political outcome can be achieved after the current war,

  18. The current catastrophe is a so-far successful attempt by the regime in Tehran to disrupt peace negotiations involving Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia. Political vision along with military force might enable Israel to turn around the situation and complete and consolidate a lasting peace with almost all of its Arab neighbours and to  set the stage for a formal and enduring peace with the Palestinians. The Tehran regime would be isolated, diminished in prestige, and more likely to be replaced from within.

Discussions should commence immediately on the Arab Trustee Council plan for Gaza outlined here. The negotiations would be behind the scenes at first, and gradually made public.

The democratic world, including Canada, should be providing unwavering support for Israel as it fights the current war—and all the creativity, understanding and diplomatic support needed to then help build an enduring peace for all the peoples in the area.

 

Bryan Schwartz is a professor of law at the University of Manitoba. First published here.

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