Blinken: In the absence of Israeli plan for day after, there won’t be a day after

US secretary says Rafah strike highlights how even targeted raids can have horrific results and that incremental gains from such ops are being lost without a post-war strategy

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacts to questions by the media during a joint press conference with Moldova's President Maia Sandu at the Moldovan Presidency in Chisinau, Moldova, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, Pool)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Wednesday that continued Israeli refusal to advance a viable plan for the post-war management of Gaza will lead to a never-ending war in the enclave.

“In the absence of a plan for the day after, there won’t be a day after,” Blinken summarized at a press conference in Moldova.

The US has sought to advance its own plan for the “day after” that would see a reformed Palestinian Authority gradually regain control of Gaza with help from Israel’s Arab allies.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the initiative outright, likening the PA to Hamas and insisting that he won’t allow the former to return to the Strip. The premier claims that Israel will be able to identify Palestinians unaffiliated with the PA and Hamas to administer Gaza while Arab countries will be willing to take part in re-stabilizing the enclave.

However, the Israeli security establishment argues that the PA is the only viable alternative to Hamas; and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have repeatedly made clear that they will only assist in the post-war stabilization of Gaza if it is part of a pathway to a future Palestinian state — a vision Netanyahu flatly rejects.

The prime minister also argues that overly focusing on planning for the post-war management of Gaza before Hamas has been defeated is largely futile because no forces will be willing to take over the Strip while the terror group is still operational in the enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the Knesset, Jerusalem, on May 27, 2024. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The security establishment has vehemently objected to this mindset, saying it has led IDF troops to repeatedly return to areas they previously cleared of Hamas operatives because there has been no force established in that territory to replace the terror group.

The US has welcomed comments from Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz who have made this point.

Elaborating on the plan that the US would like to see from Israel, Blinken said Wednesday that it should be “a plan that accounts for security in Gaza, that accounts for governance in Gaza, that accounts for rebuilding the lives of the Gazan people… and one that can actually help ensure the enduring defeat of Hamas — which is a shared objective.”

Israel must adopt such a plan “as quickly as possible,” the top US diplomat says, warning that failure to do so will either lead to Israel permanently occupying Gaza and facing an “enduring insurgency”; Hamas remaining in control, which is unacceptable; or a power vacuum that will be filled initially by chaos and lawlessness followed by Hamas or other Jihadist groups regaining power.

The secretary of state asserted Wednesday that without a plan for the day after, incremental gains against Hamas — such as the strike in Rafah over the weekend that Israel said was intended to only target a pair of senior commanders — have to be questioned. Dozens of civilians ended up being killed after a fire broke out in a tent compound nearby.

“After Israel has had real success in helping to destroy Hamas’s capacity to repeat October 7… it has to ask [whether]… further incremental gains against Hamas — gains that may not be durable… absent a [day after] plan… that stacks up against some of the unintended, but horrific consequences of military action in a place where the people you are going after so closely embedded with civilians,” Blinken said.

Palestinians inspect damage after an Israeli airstrike on what the IDF said was a Hamas compound, adjacent to a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah, Gaza Strip, May 27, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Blinken reiterated Washington’s horror over the Sunday night IDF strike and said the US is waiting for Israel to conduct a swift and thorough investigation before passing further judgment.

He noted Israel’s claim that the IDF used a small-diameter bomb in order to avoid civilian casualties.

“But just assuming for a moment that that’s what happened, we also see that even limited, focused, targeted attacks designed to deal with terrorists who have killed innocent civilians or who are planning to kill more; even those kinds of operations can have terrible, horrific, unintended consequences,” Blinken says, indicating increasing discomfort with any continued Israeli operations in Gaza.

Blinken added that he could not verify reports that US-supplied weapons were used by Israel in the Rafah strike but says this would be the object of the investigation into the attack that the US wants to see.

At a separate virtual event on Wednesday, the head of the US Agency for International Development warned that “despite currently more limited military operations around Rafah and the Egypt-Gaza border, the catastrophic consequences that we have long warned about are becoming a reality.”

Aid organizations on the ground are saying “it feels like the war is starting all over again, and conditions are worse now than at any period before, given everything that has happened in the ensuing month,” Samantha Power said.

Speaking at a Wednesday UN Security Council session, Deputy US Ambassador to the United Nations Robert Wood said, “The continued pattern of significant civilian harm resulting from incidents like Sunday’s air strikes undermines Israel’s strategic goals in Gaza.”

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