National-Security Experts Unveil ‘Day After’ Plan for Post-War Gaza

A group of national-security experts, speaking with reporters on Friday, described a plan for a post-Hamas future in Gaza that aims to address both the humanitarian crisis in which Gazans find themselves and the necessity of eliminating radical anti-Israel and antisemitic hatred in the Strip.

The Gaza Futures Task Force — a joint project of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) and the Vandenberg Coalition — plans to establish what it has named the International Trust for Gaza Relief and Reconstruction, a plan the task force’s members have briefed to senior U.S. and Middle Eastern officials since January 2024.

“Restoring a realistic path to a two-state solution can be part of that better Gazan and regional future and a long-term political horizon for two states should be recognized,” the group’s action proposal reads. “In order to move to such a political horizon, the first steps must be reconstruction of Gaza and revamping of the Palestinian Authority (the ‘PA’).”

Elliott Abrams, chair of the Vandenberg Coalition and former special representative for Iran and Venezuela, among other national-security positions, said the only real path forward to rebuild Gaza after Israel effectively eliminates Hamas as a governing authority is through international cooperation. He and the others involved envision an independent entity composed of nations like the U.S. and the more “responsible” Arab states like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

There would also be an advisory council of Gazans, Abrams explained, both from Gaza and the diaspora, who have relevant administrative or security skills. Before any other venture, he said, the first priority must be emergency relief, whether it be in the form of food, water, medicine, or housing.

Lewis Libby, a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute and former chief of staff to vice president Dick Cheney, stressed that it is not only the U.S. and Israel that would like to see a changed Gaza Strip. Speaking of his conversations with policymakers across the Middle East, he said that “no one seemed to want Hamas to win across the region” and that it is likely that several Arab states would be willing to engage with the U.S. to help rebuild Gaza after the war.

Israel, absent from the list of states the task force envisions comprising the trust, would seemingly be amenable to the concept as well. Libby told reporters that, based on his conversations with officials, the Israeli government wants to see aid delivered in the proper way — not through Hamas channels — and would like a responsible authority governing Gaza.

“The Israelis would have to help with the delivery of humanitarian aid inside Gaza, but I don’t think that’s too big an issue,” Libby said. That role, though, would be limited to the logistical side of affairs. John Hannah, a senior fellow at JINSA and former Cheney national-security adviser, floated the idea of Israel opening its ports to the coalition of states working on rebuilding Gaza and allowing access to roadways from the Jordanian border to Gaza.

“You would see the Israelis going to great lengths to ensure [trust members] are successful,” Hannah told reporters.

The decision to keep Israel out of direct involvement in the project is a strategic one, Abrams told reporters, given sentiments on both sides of the border.

“The Israelis don’t want to rule Gaza, they don’t want to govern Gaza, they don’t want to feed it,” he said. They would, though, cooperate “readily, because it provides an answer — or the beginning of an answer — to these problems.”

As for the Gazans, former head of the East Jerusalem mission of the Quartet (U.S., European Union, United Kingdom, and Russia) Envoy Robert Danin said, “They don’t want the Israelis there, but they don’t want the Palestinian Authority either; the PA doesn’t care about Gaza.”

“They don’t want Hamas either,” he said, “they want to have a voice for themselves.”

Abrams told reporters that the delicate balance of political interests that would have to be managed if Israel were to be immediately involved might overly complicate matters, and the plan the task force has drawn up is the most feasible of all potential options.

“We think it provides a less politically-charged means of helping Gazans than would be the case more directly,” Abrams said of Israel’s absence from the list of potential coalition members. “The trust would work with NGOs, with U.N. agencies like the World Food Programme and UNICEF, as well as any other competent U.N. agency.”

Once the humanitarian crisis in Gaza had been ameliorated, Abrams told reporters, the trust would turn its attention to working with new leadership, establishing a general state of law and order, and engaging in a de-radicalization project.

“If there is no serious de-radicalization project, for example with what’s being taught in schools, then Gaza will never change,” Abrams said, pointing to well-documented examples of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) textbooks promoting violence against Israel and lesson plans demonizing Jews. While the process of de-radicalization is by no means an easy task to accomplish, he said, there are examples to which the trust could look.

Morocco is one instance of a successful de-radicalization program, Abrams told reporters. Some years ago, the state undertook an effort to establish religious institutions for training imams from sub-Saharan Africa, a program Abrams said could potentially be emulated elsewhere.

“They provide scholarships, they have actual schools (I’ve visited them) that are university-level programs for imams from elsewhere in Africa — young ones — to be trained without hatred, without antisemitism,” he said.

The attempt to flush antisemitism and an all-consuming hatred of Israel from Gazan society will, the task force members said, be an arduous process. Hannah recounted his experience speaking with high-level individuals within the Saudi government about the possibility of normalization with Israel.

“This particular decision-maker said ‘it makes all the sense in the world, we have some of the same friends and a lot of the same enemies, there are both military and economic benefits, but there are risks that would come from normalization,’” Hannah told reporters. “‘Because,’ the Saudi official told me, ‘we have spent the last 50 years filling our people’s heads with hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel, and we’ve now got to try to fix that. And that takes time.’”

While the task of rebuilding and de-radicalizing Gaza may be tall, Libby said it is necessary to create conditions for stability in the region and an end to bloodshed.

“If there are not Gazans who are seeking a better life and are willing to coexist with Israel,” he said, “we won’t get to a point where there is peace.”

Originally published in The National Review.