Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the Israeli army was the only force capable of assuming military responsibility for Gaza after the war and guaranteeing his country’s security, while saying he saw no administrative role future for the Western-backed Palestinian Authority. – at least in its current form.
“We need to see the following two things,” Mr. Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Gaza must be demilitarized and Gaza must be deradicalized. And I think so far we haven’t seen any Palestinian force, including the Palestinian Authority, capable of doing that. »
When asked who might govern Gaza, he replied that it was “too early to say.” He added: “The first task we must accomplish is to defeat Hamas. »
Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks echo those he made to the Israeli public in a televised news conference on Saturday evening, which was his most detailed public description of his vision for Gaza after the end of the Israeli military campaign against Hamas, which controls the enclave. He said Israel must maintain security control there “as long as necessary” and have the ability to enter Gaza at will to deal with perceived threats there.
His remarks appear somewhat at odds with the Biden administration, which made clear last week that there should be no Israeli “reoccupation” of Gaza. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken left open the possibility of a “transition period” after the war, but said that ultimately the administration of Gaza “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza Strip unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged the challenges ahead on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on Sunday, saying the best-case scenario would be for a “reinvigorated Palestinian Authority” to take leadership in Gaza, from where Hamas militants expelled her. power in 2007.
The best-case scenario, he said, would also require Israel to agree to “negotiate a two-state solution with the support of the international community.” He added: “What would a one-state solution be like, with so many Palestinians inside that state without any rights? That would be inconceivable. »
Israel has remained vague about who might administer Gaza if and when Hamas is ousted, even as it faces growing international criticism for the humanitarian crisis and the escalating death toll from its airstrikes and to the subsequent land invasion of the enclave. More than 11,000 people have been killed in Gaza since October 7, according to Gaza health authorities.
The war was sparked by a Hamas cross-border attack on October 7 in which around 1,200 people were killed and around 240 others were taken hostage in Gaza, according to Israeli officials. Israel’s stated goals in this war are to dismantle Hamas’s military strength and ability to govern Gaza, as well as return the hostages home.
Asked about a possible hostage deal, Mr. Netanyahu told “Meet the Press” that there “could be one,” but added: “The less I talk about it, the more I increase the chances that it materializes.” Israeli representatives have initiated negotiations with intermediaries, including Qatar.
But Mr Netanyahu has now made clear that he will not accept the Western-backed Palestinian Authority handling civilian affairs in Gaza unless it changes some of its conduct and unless that its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, unreservedly condemns the October 7 assault on Gaza. Israel – something Mr. Abbas has so far refrained from doing.
In addition to the lack of conviction, Mr. Netanyahu highlighted teaching children to hate Israel and monetary payments to assailants convicted of attacks against Israelis – all common Israeli accusations against the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited autonomy in certain parts of the country. the occupied West Bank.
“The October 7 massacre proved once and for all that wherever Israel does not have security controls, terrorism takes root,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Saturday. “In the end, it comes back to hit us, and this is also true in Judea and Samaria,” he added, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.
This is why, he said, he will not agree to abandon security control of Gaza “under any pretext”.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Abbas’s spokesman, stressed on Sunday that any Israeli attempt to separate Gaza from the West Bank was doomed to failure. Apparently in response to Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks, Mr. Abu Rudeineh said in comments reported by Wafa, the Palestinian Authority’s official news agency, that “the consolidation of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, Gaza and in East Jerusalem would not bring security to anyone.” .”
Mr. Abu Rudeineh added that stability would only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state in these areas.
Mr. Netanyahu, a conservative and Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, is pursuing the war amid plummeting popularity. The ultranationalist parties that make up a key part of his governing coalition do not view the Palestinian Authority as a partner, and after the October 7 attacks there is broad consensus among Israelis on the need to oust Hamas from Gaza – even if its total elimination is total. elimination will most likely prove impossible.
The Israeli government believes that until Mr. Abbas directly condemns Hamas for the October 7 attacks, any deal to install his authority in Gaza to replace the group would make Mr. Netanyahu appear weak in the eyes. many Israelis, according to an Israeli government official who was not authorized to speak openly about internal discussions.