A former army commander and defense minister recently submitted a plan to the Prime Minister’s Office advocating for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip as part of an international move constructed along the lines of the agreement that forced Syria to forgo its chemical weapons.
The Syrian precedent, said MK Shaul Mofaz, could serve as “a milestone” on the path to the demilitarization of Gaza.
He presented the plan last week before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and earlier this week to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen.
Shortly thereafter, on Tuesday, for the first time during this ongoing conflict, Netanyahu spoke explicitly about the goal of partial demilitarization. “We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the [Gaza] Strip — from missiles, from rockets and from tunnels — through diplomatic means,” he said in a statement.
Mofaz, in a phone interview, said he saw that as a sign that the initiative was being carefully considered.
The notion first came to him after the last round of fighting. The sort of understandings reached after Operation Cast Lead and Operation Pillar of Defense, in 2009 and 2012 respectively, he said, “do not hold water.” Reaching another such understanding at the close of the current operation, he indicated, would lead to another recurrence of bloodshed. “What was, will be,” he wrote in the paper submitted to the PMO.
The notion of re-occupying Gaza and administering to the needs of 1.8 million Palestinians there, he said, “is the option of last resort.”
Therefore, and especially in light of the shining example of the previously unthinkable Syrian accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, he put together a working paper titled “The Demilitarization of the Gaza Strip: The Proper Endpoint for Israel of Operation Protective Edge.”
The plan calls for a $50 billion investment in Gaza in return for Hamas’s compliance and seeks to involve a host of regional and global leaders.
Mofaz said he thought the call for demilitarization could gain traction because the notion of rocket fire on any state’s cities was clearly anathema to the universally held understanding of sovereignty, and because the tenet of demilitarization is, and has long been, “a central anchor” in any sort of peace deal between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors.
He acknowledged that months of diplomatic legwork were required to rally the likes of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States to the framework of the deal. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, he wrote, would likely “want to lend a hand to this sort of move and he should be involved in the process.”
Shlomo Avineri, a professor of political science at the Hebrew University, called the plan an example of “creative thinking” and said it could prove useful both domestically and internationally.
In Israel, he said, many feel trapped between the untenable option of re-occupying Gaza and the equally impossible reality of being sentenced to small-scale wars with Gaza once every few months, and may therefore be eager to embrace a plan that offers some sort of hope for a way out of the Gaza quagmire.
Internationally, he said, “I don’t think there’s anyone who could be against this.”
Alon Pinkas, a former foreign affairs adviser to prime minister Ehud Barak, said in a written reply that that the plan itself was good, but it “requires an international force to enforce.” And that, he said, would be nearly impossible to assemble.
Mofaz, in his written report, urged Netanyahu to “harness” the right people to the chore at hand and said that, in his opinion, their determination “will yield results in the long term.”