Analyzing the Two-Month Israel-Hamas Conflict: Exploring the Future Classification of Gaza as ‘Zone D

Two months of Israel-Hamas war — It appears that after the ongoing war is over, when the objective of Hamas being destroyed or decimated achieved by the IDF, Netanyahu might agree to convert Gaza into a ‘Zone D’. With this, IDF could exercise the ‘overriding , overarching military envelope ‘ as part of politico-security arrangement with the Palestinian Authority, writes former diplomat and a keen observer of international affairs, Amb. Anil Trigunayat.

Israel has the unique distinction of defeating Arab armies in nearly all the wars fought with the 1967 war and Yom Kippur War ending in humiliating losses in six and nineteen days for the Arabs. But Hamas even after sixty days of Israeli pounding and aerial bombing and the ground offensive and now proposed sea water flooding by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) into their labyrinthine tunnel hideouts has remained intransigent.

PM Netanyahu, supported by the US and several western countries, continues with his “Destroy Hamas’ campaign, losing over four hundred of his soldiers since October 7 terror attacks. Worst are the thousands of civilian casualties both in Israel, West Bank and Gaza and millions displaced on both sides.

A week-long temporary truce yielded the release of over 100 Israeli captives and three times that of Palestinian prisoners in exchange with the intervention of Qatar, Egypt and the International Red Cross.

But both sides were adamant on fighting it out and hence the war got resumed and one witnessed more of the same death and destruction. Still the international community and the interlocutors are hoping for a permanent ceasefire as the civilian casualties and ensuing strife multiplies. The helplessness of the international community to contain any wars and conflicts is pathetic and symptomatic of the ongoing global disorder.

The US is also at crossroads with regard to its policy on the Israel-Palestine issue as it was forced to sanction several settlers for violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.  Apparently, several former US Middle East experts are working on the ‘Day After’ scenario with various options most important being how to kick start the negotiations for a ‘two state’ solution to which President Biden is committed.

Meanwhile, they continue to impress upon PM Netanyahu, also known as Bibi, to minimise the attacks and civilian casualties and avoid the designated and agreed places as global discontent with the plight of Palestinians grows. The UN has so far lost the maximum number of its workers ever in any conflict. Secretary Blinken himself has been to the region four times since October 7, with limited success and more frustration after each Bibi-Blinken talks.  

Israel in a fix

PM Netanyahu is also in a fix. While his decision to go after Hamas, after their October 7 terror attacks, has had broad support and sympathy of most of the world community and nearly 2/3rd Israelis but delays in release of hostages has increased frustration and anger among the Israelis. And the continued indiscriminate killing of Palestinians has frustrated the designs and frittered away the sympathy factor among the majority of nations.

Bibi is also worried about the day after since his own indictment and post war investigations on failures of intelligence and breach of security by Hamas would, according to all accounts, seal his political future and possible imprisonment. If, however, he is able to decimate the Hamas military leadership by whatever means he might still flag some achievements howsoever temporary that might be since the cycle of retribution and revenge is unlikely to resolve until the political solution is found.

Hence prolonging his war on terror is also politically expedient. But in the bargain his political capital with the Arab world might also be decimating to a great extent with Turkish President Erdogan even calling him ‘Butcher of Gaza’ asking him to be tried for war crimes. 

Why to retain control over Gaza

But Bibi is also talking about the day after scenario especially as far as Gaza is concerned. He wants to retain control over Gaza and is averse to the idea of Palestinian authority controlling it. He has even told his Arab interlocutors that perhaps as a last resort he would want a buffer zone, which would mean more Palestinian land under his control.

He does not like the idea of UN or Arab peace keeping force like the UNIFIL in Lebanon which he discards as pro-Palestinian. Only recently he claimed that the IDF should retain control of the disarmament of Gaza, rejecting the idea of an international force responsible for security.  He said “On the day after: Gaza must be disarmed. and in order for Gaza to be disarmed there is only one force and this force is the IDF “.

However, this may not be palatable to Americans but would Bibi care to listen to his benefactors. President Biden from the very beginning has opposed the idea of Gaza being controlled by Israel. He would prefer a reformed, empowered and legitimate Palestinian leadership to manage Gaza even as the legitimacy of President Abbas has been cast in doubt. How would one reconcile the two polar opposites!

Area A, B & C

Currently as per public sources, the West Bank has been divided into three zones: A , B and C under the overt suzerainty of the Palestinian Authority (PA) with a graded Israeli security presence and control. Area A, comprising 18 percent of the West Bank, is under PA civilian control and security authority. Although it is comprised entirely of Palestinian cities — including Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and some towns and villages that do not border Israeli settlements — they are separated by areas controlled by Israel, including checkpoints, settlements and military outposts.

Area B, comprising about 22% of the West Bank, is under Palestinian civil administration while Israel retains exclusive security control with limited cooperation from the Palestinian police. While, Area C, which is under full Israeli civil administration and security control, is the largest division in the West Bank, comprising 60% of the territory. The PA only has responsibility for providing education and medical services to nearly  150,000 Palestinians living there. With the exception of Hebron, all Israeli settlements are in Area C, where Israel has full authority over building permissions and zoning laws. Therefore, Israel has a time-tested model where you can have the pudding and eat it too. 

Why ‘Zone D’

Therefore, it appears that after the ongoing war is over, when the objective of Hamas being destroyed or decimated achieved by the IDF, Netanyahu might agree to convert Gaza into a ‘Zone D’. With this, IDF could exercise the ‘overriding , overarching military envelope ‘ as part of politico-security arrangement with the Palestinian Authority, being notional political guardian of Gazans, though at this stage it is not acceptable to President Abbas whose chips as such are down with the Palestinians there. 

Or very likely, US and the international community might even be waiting out for both Bibi and Abu Mazan to leave their respective discredited political heritage for seriously pushing for a genuine and viable Two State solution.

Anil Trigunayat, is a former Indian Ambassador to Jordan, Libya and Malta, and currently heads the West Asia Experts Group at Vivekananda International Foundation.

The article was first published in CNBC TV18 as World View | Two months of Israel-Hamas war — here’s why Gaza will be a ‘Zone D‘ on December 7, 2023.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organisation.

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