Historically the Jewish state is said to be renowned for winning wars but losing the peace. So if, hopefully, this military operation in Gaza goes well, what type of peace should Israel sue for?
In my estimation there is a continuum of post conflict solutions to the Gaza problem (all assuming a resounding defeat of Hamas), ranging from the reimposition of the Israeli civil administration in Gaza to some sort of international mandate to handing over control to Abu Mazen and the PA. I personally think the latter is the ideal but just don’t know how practical it is. Would the PA have the capacity to subdue the last remaining remnants of Hamas’ rag tag army? And even if so would they be prepared to do it? There would be a real risk that Fatah would be seen as Israeli puppets.
The next best in my opinion is the international mandate. There has been some talk about European monitors at the Gaza border posts. But I think this is far too unambitious. The war with Hezbollah has set a precedent for UN troops to police former rocket launch sites and arms smuggling. I would like to see something much more substantial and much more Arab and Muslim in nature. I propose that a UN force together with some sort of international civil administration be imposed on the strip. They would need to clean up the last vestiges of Hamas and insure no more rockets are fired at Israeli civilians. They would also need to provide some form of government in Gaza until Abbas is strong enough to take control. Countries like Egypt and Jordan would need to play a major role. The PA should also be included as a partner in this initiative.
This option obviously has its downsides. Which countries would be willing to send troops to police as unruly a place as Gaza? Also would they do an effective job? The results in Southern Lebanon have not been very promising. Hezbollah is said to have completely rearmed under UN noses. But I definitely think it is worth a shot.
The last option of a return to Israeli military occupation would be horrendous. It seems unlikely that the people of Gaza would ever accept them as overlords. This would result in a perpetual rebellion in which many Israeli soldiers and Palestinians could potentially lose their lives. It would weaken the PA and dash all of hope of an independent Palestinian state. But having Israeli soldiers permanently on the ground would most likely stop the rockets.
None of the post conflict options are easy. Prime Minister Olmert and Defense Minister Barak must have known this going in. Lets hope their peace planning has been effective as their military campaign (so far). All this death and destruction must not be in vein.
I will be in Colombia on holiday for the next few weeks. Steve is also away. So expect blogging to be a bit slow. I will try update as much as I can. Please feel free to post relevant information or opinions in the comments.