Biden administration seeks return to West Bank and Gaza Strip to unified rule under an active Palestinian Authority (French)

Washington — While in Dubai for the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), Vice President Kamala Harris met with the leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, the Egyptian president, and the Emir of Qatar to discuss what Gaza will look like once the fighting stops.

"We all want this conflict to end as soon as possible, and to ensure Israel's security, and to ensure the security of the Palestinian people, we must accelerate efforts to build a lasting peace," Harris said, referring very broadly to new points of focus to ensure the success of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, which would require "regional consensus and support" to achieve.

However, Harris' national security adviser Phil Gordon flew to Israel and the Palestinian territories after Harris left the region to discuss the principles set by President Joe Biden's administration for "reconstruction, security and governance in the Gaza Strip after heavy fighting ends," and Gordon made clear that the Palestinian people must have a meaningful political horizon and reiterated his commitment to a two-state solution.

Tokyo Principles

During his speech at the Manama Security Forum two weeks ago, the National Security Council's Middle East and North Africa coordinator, Brett McGurk, touched on the White House's vision, which he summarized in 5 no's and followed it with 5 principles.

It has become common in Washington to refer to these principles and no's as the "Tokyo Principles", since Secretary of State Antony Blinken first addressed them at a press conference in Tokyo, on the sidelines of his participation in the meeting of foreign ministers of the seven major countries.

This vision suggests that in the near term, the United States insists and will work to ensure that the following is done with respect to Gaza:

  • First, there must be no forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza.
  • Secondly, there must be no reoccupation of Gaza.
  • Thirdly, there must be no reduction or cutting of Gaza's land, this is Palestinian land, and it must remain Palestinian territory.
  • Fourth, Gaza should not be used as a platform for terrorism or other acts of violence, meaning there are no threats to Israel from Gaza.
  • Fifthly, there must be no blockade of Gaza, and innocent people in Gaza must be separated from Hamas.

In the medium and long term, Washington believes in five principles, which it believes will have positive consequences if adhered to:

  • First, the Palestinian people and their aspirations must be at the centre of Gaza's post-crisis governance system.
  • Second, the West Bank and Gaza must return to unified governance, and ultimately under a vibrant Palestinian Authority, and be integrated into a future Palestinian state.
  • Thirdly, Israel must be safe, and terrorist groups and threats to Israel cannot be allowed to emanate and spread from the West Bank or Gaza.
  • Fourthly, resources must be made available, and we must now be prepared to support the post-crisis phase in Gaza, including security resources, and the use of these resources must aim to lay the foundation for a path that will eventually lead to a two-State solution.
  • Fifthly, a reconstruction mechanism must be established to ensure that the needs of the people of Gaza are met on a long-term and sustainable basis, and we have done so before as an international community, and we can do that again.

The two-state solution

In an interview on the website of the Council on Foreign Relations, Stephen Cook, an expert on the Council's Middle East affairs, ridiculed the Biden administration's quest to end with a two-state solution, and criticized the Biden administration's discussion with its partners in the region of the post-conflict issue, by suggesting that "there must be an effort to reactivate the Palestinian Authority," which is at risk due to its dysfunction and massive corruption.

"The legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority is at risk because of its security cooperation with Israel," Cook said, adding that "after the revitalization of the Palestinian Authority to extend its authority back into the Gaza Strip, where it has been absent since 2007, and that security in the Gaza Strip will be the result of some kind of multinational effort, and that this would pave the way for the resumption of negotiations towards a two-state solution."

"I have to be honest, I think talking now about a two-state solution is pure fiction in every way, neither side for domestic political purposes can meet the other side's minimum requirements, so I didn't understand what Secretary Blinken, or anyone else, was saying when talking about a two-state solution," Cook concluded.

Israel's Plans

While the Biden administration reiterates that it opposes any move by Israel that changes the size of Gaza's territory, Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told ABC that "Israel plans to put security arrangements in place along the outskirts of the Gaza Strip to ensure that Hamas cannot threaten Israel again."

"Israel must have a security buffer zone," Regev said, adding: "Israel does not plan to grab territory from Gaza or occupy the Strip, but there must be security arrangements on the ground to prevent future attacks."

Michael Duran, director of the Center for Middle East Peace and Security at the Hudson Institute and a former National Security Council official under President George W. Bush, highlighted the scale of "U.S.-Israeli differences over the future of Gaza.

Duran pointed to the disagreement between the Biden administration and Israel mainly over the goals of the war, especially with the White House rejecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's statement that "Israel will control Gaza indefinitely" and retaining "comprehensive security responsibility" for the Strip after the end of the war.

While a study by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy stated, "The ultimate goal should be the return of the PA as the legitimate government in Gaza, but the PA lacks the will and capacity to accomplish this task for the foreseeable future, does not want to be seen as returning to the Gaza Strip on the backs of Israeli tanks, nor is it in no case in a position to assume additional government responsibilities in Gaza, given its failure in the West Bank."

To achieve this, the institute called for "the situation requires the establishment of an interim administration to administer Gaza, until the Palestinian Authority can play this role."

Jeffrey Aronson, an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict at the Middle East Institute in Washington, rejects this perception, saying that "Israel has no interest in enabling the Palestinian Authority to govern Gaza, carry out the duties of governance, police and policing, and the authority is not very popular, while Arab observers reported that Hamas maintains widespread support inside and outside Gaza."

Source : Al Jazeera