The EU seeks solutions for the day after Israel's departure from Gaza | International

The EU seeks solutions for the day after Israel's departure
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As the crisis intensifies in the Gaza Strip, besieged and bombed by Israel in response to the Hamas attack on October 7, the European Union is beginning to think about the day after the conflict. The capitals and community institutions have begun a process of reflection on possible solutions for the Strip when the war ends. In the long term, they all agree on the two-state solution (Israel and Palestine), but possible short-term, immediate measures are also being debated to guarantee the security and rights of both communities once the Israeli army withdraws. Germany, for example, suggested a few weeks ago placing Gaza under the international protection of the United Nations. The EU High Representative for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, speaks of a Palestinian authority defined and decided by the UN Security Council with the support of the Arab countries.

What both the EU and the United States are clear about is that Israel cannot reoccupy Gaza when it ends its war with Hamas. This was stressed by the head of European diplomacy this Monday, shortly before embarking on a trip to Israel that begins this Thursday and will also include the Palestinian Ramallah. This is the first trip to Israel for the EU High Representative for Foreign Policy since he has held that position. And it is also the first time since the conflict broke out that a senior community official – who after the visit will begin a tour of several countries in the region – visits the West Bank after setting foot on Israeli territory. In Borrell's opinion, Israel cannot remain in Gaza after the war, but rather "a Palestinian authority must return to Gaza." The European representative stressed that he was referring to “a Palestinian authority, not the Palestinian Authority.”

The horizon for Gaza is one of the great debates that the European Union and the United States want to start now. And in that future perspective, the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, can play a role in the management of the Strip. But to do this it needs internal reforms, greater capacity and also greater international support. The debate is still in a very preliminary situation and many agree that, in the short term, it is likely that the solution will involve a transitional authority. Both the community club – which has been losing power as an influential actor in the region – and Washington also believe that the Arab countries in the area should have a voice in the debate. And above all this, there is a doubt about what the Gazans, who have been under bombs for weeks, will want about their future in a devastated territory.

Last week, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, acknowledged that “a transition period after the war” may be necessary, but he was also very explicit in his refusal to allow Israel to remain in the territory: “It is clear that Israel cannot occupy Gaza.” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had previously stated in an interview with American television that Israel would assume “overall responsibility for security” in Gaza “for an indefinite period.”

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This horizon for Gaza has to be part of the path of dialogue to end the conflict, Washington and Brussels agree. The Union plans to hold a peace conference when the situation is less volatile and begins to think about reconstruction. Meanwhile, as Borrell ventured on Monday, everything points to a possible roadmap that always leads to the two-state solution, a formula included in the international pacts that had been paralyzed as just another diplomatic linguistic tagline, but that is now back. forcefully on the table.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on November 15.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, for example, has proposed what she called “five basic principles” for the future of the Strip once the war is over based on the perspective of a two-state solution; They presuppose both the end of Hamas rule and the absence of Israeli security forces in the long term. The debate is there, but also more urgent diplomatic movements, such as ensuring that the “humanitarian pauses” demanded by Washington and Brussels so that the necessary aid reaches the besieged Gaza are effective. Following the Hamas attacks on October 7, Israel's air raids and ground operation in Gaza have killed more than 11,300 Palestinians, according to figures provided by Hamas-ruled Gaza authorities, including more than 4,500 children.

The German proposal to put Gaza under UN protection is included in a document, advanced by the newspaper Political, in which Berlin proposes five different scenarios for the future of the Strip, including Israeli reoccupation and takeover by the Palestinian Authority or Egypt. One of them is UN protection, which is described as “an internationalization of Gaza under the umbrella of the United Nations (and regional partners)” with “a carefully organized transition” towards Palestinian self-administration, “ideally” through elections. and in combination with an international coalition that provides the necessary security.” The two-page report, however, is dated October 21, so it predates the second phase of the Israeli military operation and is somewhat outdated, according to several diplomatic sources.

A “clear course”

In public, the official position of the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, is the one she expressed on November 8 in a statement after the meeting with her G-7 counterparts. Berlin talks about the two-state solution and setting “a clear course” for Gaza, which must meet several assumptions: the Strip cannot pose a terrorist threat to Israel's security in the future, the Palestinians must not be expelled and In no case should the territory of the enclave be reduced. Baerbock has so far been vague about the type of immediate solution that Germany would advocate, except for this phrase: “Gaza should not be occupied, but the ideal would be to place it under international protection,” he assured, without giving more details at the moment about the type of protection to which it refers.

German government spokespeople are also cautious about questions about the future of Gaza once the war ends. Baerbock traveled to the United Arab Emirates a few days ago and then passed through Saudi Arabia, where he met with his Qatari counterpart, and then finished the tour in Ramallah and Tel Aviv. At the different stops he balanced between a pause or ceasefire, humanitarian aid and Israel's right to self-defense, of which Germany is one of the most faithful allies. For Berlin, the most relevant thing is that right now “Israel is defending itself from the terror of Hamas,” although it recognizes that “the humanitarian situation in Gaza is terrible, catastrophic, and must be addressed,” according to a Foreign Affairs spokesperson. The German perspective “can only be a long-term solution based on the two states,” he added, pointing out that “everyone” is clear that it is the only possible one.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on November 13 in Brussels.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on November 13 in Brussels.

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