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Israel-Palestine war: Israel will have 'indefinite security control' over Gaza, says Netanyahu

Israeli prime minister for the first time indicates that Israel plans to maintain broad control over Gaza following the war
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pictured during a press conference in the Kirya military base, Tel Aviv, Israel, 28 October 2023 (Reuters)

Israel will take the "overall security responsibility" in Gaza for an "indefinite period" after the war ends, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday.

Netanyahu’s interview on ABC News on Monday is the clearest expression to date what Israeli plans for Gaza after the war. 

Gaza should be governed by "those who don’t want to continue the way of Hamas," Netanyahu said, before adding, "I think Israel, for an indefinite period, will have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have it.”

Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and has since maintained a control over its land, air and sea, and a total blockade. Netanyahu didn't offer further clarifications on what were Israel's post-war plans.

"The language is vague here, and I don’t think that the full meaning of it has been thought out in specific terms," Yonatan Touval, an analyst at the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies (Mitvim), told Middle East Eye.

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"But it’s a conceptual idea that dates back to the Oslo Accords, where Israel insisted on maintaining 'overall security responsibility' for the West Bank, which basically meant that Israel controls all crossings into and out of the West Bank (also on the Jordanian side), and retained for itself the right to intervene whenever its own security needs were under threat."

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Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, Hamas has largely run the enclave through its own institutions and security apparatus. However, Israel may refuse to allow any Palestinian faction or organisation to have that much autonomy in Gaza following the war.

"The basic idea here is that while the internal policing would be handled by someone else, Israel will feel free (even bound) to act, also inside the Strip, whenever its own security interests were deemed under threat," said Touval. 

This model would largely relfect the current set-up in the occupied West Bank in which Israel allows the Palestinian Authority to maintain administrative control of Palestinians, while it itself retains full security control.

"Is it sustainable? If there is a functional policing mechanism for the day-to-day, the concept of 'overall security responsibility' could work," said Touval, adding that it is risks undermining Palestinian self-governance in Gaza.

No ceasefire

Some have already cast doubt on the proposal, including Carl Bildt, the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Bildt said the suggestion by Netanyahu amounted to the "continued de facto occupation of Gaza”. 

"At a minimum complete Israeli control of all access, including air and sea space, with some ground intervention resources. At most back to the situation prior to 2005,” said Bildt on X, formerly known as Twitter.  "Is this possible? And sustainable? Isn’t it paving the way for the next explosion?"

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In his ABC interview, Netanyahu reiterated his rejection of global demands for a ceasefire. 

"There'll be no ceasefire, general ceasefire, in Gaza without the release of our hostages,” Netanyahu said, adding that, "As far as tactical little pauses, an hour here, an hour there.”

At least 10,328 Palestinians have been killed in one month of relentless Israeli bombing, which has flattened entire neighbourhoods and targeted civilian infrastructure, hospitals, mosques, churches, and schools sheltering thousands of displaced people.

The prime minister said that a ceasefire would "hamper the war effort. It'll hamper our effort to get our hostages out because the only thing that works on these criminals in Hamas is the military pressure that we're exerting.”

When asked if he bears any responsibility for the attacks on 7 October, when Hamas launched an unprecedented assault on southern Israeli town, Netanyahu avoided answering the question directly. 

Netanyahu insisted that tough questions would need to be asked after the war and he will be "among the first to answer them," adding that "we're not going to evade that. The responsibility of a government is to protect the people and clearly that responsibility wasn't met."

Around 1,400 Israelis were killed in the 7 October attack, and 240 people taken captive.

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