Will Israel have indefinite control of Gaza?

 Photo collage of Benjamin Netanyahu's eyes with a vintage map of the Gaza Strip area in the background. Overlaid on top, there is a photo of USA-supplied munitions, including white phosphorus, being handled by the Israeli army. The photo is cut out in the shape of the Gaza strip.
Photo collage of Benjamin Netanyahu's eyes with a vintage map of the Gaza Strip area in the background. Overlaid on top, there is a photo of USA-supplied munitions, including white phosphorus, being handled by the Israeli army. The photo is cut out in the shape of the Gaza strip.
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It's been more than four months since Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel, killing more than a thousand people before retreating into the adjoining Gaza Strip with hundreds of Israeli hostages in tow. In response, Israel has embarked on a massive military operation across the neighboring territory, killing tens of thousands of Palestinians and razing much of the densely packed territory to the point of uninhabitability.

As the violence has threatened not only to engulf the broader region in warfare but to affect even the upcoming presidential elections in the U.S., one overarching question has been left largely unanswered by all sides of the conflict: What will happen the day after fighting stops?

This week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered his clearest proposal for what a post-war Gaza might look like, delivering a "day after" plan to his war cabinet on Thursday. Netanyahu described a scenario in which Israel maintains indefinite military control over the compact Palestinian territory, while delegating civil authority to residents that will "not be identified with countries or entities that support terrorism and will not receive payment from them." While the two-page document is light on specifics, the future it outlines precludes an independent Palestinian state. It is also directly at odds with the United States' hopes for post-war Palestinian sovereignty as a prerequisite to eventual statehood.

Will Gaza exist under an indefinite Israeli military presence, or is Netanyahu's proposal simply an aspirational document to appease his critics and allies alike?

What did the commentators say?

The plan, which includes references to a "complete demilitarization" of the Gaza strip, as well as an overhaul of the territory's civil and educational infrastructure, is a "basis for discussion ... in preparation of further talks," CNN said, adding that an Israeli official had described the proposal as being "aligned" with the United States. At the same time, however, there has been "no immediate official U.S. reaction" to the Netanyahu plan, the network said.

Netanyahu has been "under pressure — at home and internationally — to publish proposals for Gaza since he began his military operation," and is "keen to restore a crumbling reputation" domestically, BBC said. Crucially, the document "neither accepted nor rejected the demands of the right-wing flank of his coalition" to institute full Israeli control and settlement plans on the territory, The Jerusalem Post said.

Beyond asserting Israel's right to unfettered military operations across Gaza, the plan also describes the creation of an overtly "Israeli-controlled buffer zone" across the territory's southern border — the only area not currently under direct Israeli control. Establishing such a foothold "risks inflaming tensions with the Egyptian government," The New York Times said, noting that to do so would involve invading the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where much of the strip's population has settled to escape Israeli bombardments to the north. This, in turn, could prompt "mass displacement onto Egyptian territory, an outcome that Egypt has repeatedly warned against."

What next?

While the stance articulated in Netanyahu's document is "formulated against corresponding positions, first and foremost that of the Biden administration" it is nevertheless the "first step towards synchronization with the international pressure to promote an outline to end the war," Haaretz Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Lis said in an analysis of the proposal. Absent specific details, the remaining question posed by the document is "less about how, and more about when," Lis said, noting that donor nations will likely withhold rebuilding funds from Gaza until Israel can assure them their "money won't be wasted due to further airstrikes."

In spite of the proposal's standing as "broadly aligned with majority opinion" in Israel, Netanyahu's document received "only a muted response" from his domestic constituents in the hours after it was made public, The New York Times said. Palestinians, meanwhile, "strongly criticized" the plan, with the West Bank's Palestinian Authority calling it a means to "perpetuate Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state" and "destined to fail."