Egypt, UAE, Morocco said weighing US plan to create post-war Gaza peacekeeping force

But report says the 3 countries first want US to recognize a Palestinian state; other Arab nations have rejected proposal, amid lack of clarity over ‘what day after will be like’

This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows destroyed buildings in the enclave on May 15, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
This picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows destroyed buildings in the enclave on May 15, 2024. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco are reportedly considering a US proposal to provide troops for an international peacekeeping force to secure the Gaza Strip and prevent Hamas from regaining power there after the war ends.

However, the three countries want the US to formally recognize a Palestinian state before such a force is created, according to a Wednesday report in the Financial Times.

US partners in the Middle East have repeatedly conditioned their support for the rehabilitation of the enclave on the establishment of a pathway to a two-state solution, not wanting the aid they give to be turned to rubble in another Gaza war.

While the Biden administration supports efforts to reach a two-state solution, it has come out against the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, arguing that such declarations in a vacuum don’t practically advance the effort.

Other Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have rejected the US proposal to participate in a peacekeeping force, not wanting to be seen as overly collaborating with Israel, the British business daily said.

But the latter group of countries has come around to the general idea of having some kind of international force in Gaza, as no other viable alternatives are seen for replacing Israeli troops in the Strip after the war, according to the report, which did not clarify whether those nations would therefore actually be willing to contribute to the envisioned peacekeeping mission.

File: Members of the armed wing of Hamas parade in Gaza City on June 7, 2021. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The US has had a hard time getting the plan off the ground because it’s not willing to contribute any American soldiers to the effort, the report said.

Moreover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal to present a clear, viable post-war vision for Gaza has exacerbated US efforts to coax Arab partners to contribute to a peacekeeping force, due to the uncertainty over what kind of environment those troops would be entering.

“Israel is refusing to talk to anybody about it, it’s in denial. And everyone else is talking past each other,” the Western official told the Financial Times. “The Arab states say the West has to recognize a Palestinian state, but very few of the major Western states are really close to doing this.”

Meanwhile, the US has “been trying to build some momentum for a stability force, but the American policy is pretty firm that there will be no American troops on the ground, so it’s hard for them to make the argument that others should,” a person briefed on the talks with Arab countries was quoted as saying, adding that the effort would be led by Washington and that a lot of work remained to establish it.

An Arab official said that among Arab countries, there are disagreements over what plans should be in place for post-war Gaza, but even more importantly, “nobody knows what the day after will be like.”

In response to the report, a US State Department spokesperson said Washington’s allies have shown “a willingness to play a constructive role when conditions allow” during discussions on post-war Gaza.

Netanyahu been adamantly opposed to a two-state solution since October 7 — when Hamas-led terrorists killed some 1,200 people and took another 252 hostage, trigger the ongoing war in Gaza — arguing that granting the Palestinians a state after the attack would amount to a “prize” for terrorism.

The position has severely hampered US efforts to advance a Saudi-Israel normalization deal as well as any post-war planning.

For his part, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in December expressed his opposition to the idea of an international force in Gaza, saying, “We shouldn’t always talk about the Palestinians as if they need some guardian.”

Last week, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed denounced a suggestion by Netanyahu that Abu Dhabi might assist local Palestinians in managing Gaza after the war.

In a public challenge Wednesday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant urged the premier to reject both Israeli military and civil control over the Strip, adding that it was imperative for a plan on post-war Gaza to be developed immediately or else Hamas would return to power.

Gallant in the past has spoken in favor of an international peacekeeping force in Gaza as well.

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