A map of Gaza demarking areas of Northern Gaza

Israel is poised to embark on a groundbreaking and contentious plan aimed at reshaping postwar Gaza through the creation of controlled "humanitarian enclaves" or "bubbles." This daring initiative, first reported by The Wall Street Journal over the weekend has ignited a firestorm of debate among political and security analysts, as well as within the international community. The plan, while innovative is not a new concept and many, while openly skeptical, believe if Israel could ensure the security of those in charge of the "bubbles", the long-term prospects for deradicalization within Palestinian society could very well lead to cooperation and peace within the region.

A New Approach: Humanitarian Enclaves

The experimental model, set to commence imminently in the northern Gaza neighborhoods of Atatra, Beit Hanoun, and Beit Lahia, involves a meticulous process. According to six sources familiar with the plan, the Israeli military will channel aid through the nearby Erez crossing to carefully vetted local Palestinians. These local figures will be responsible for distributing the aid and gradually assuming civilian governance responsibilities. Initially, Israeli forces will ensure security in these designated areas, aiming to establish a stable and secure environment free from Hamas influence. The Financial Times' Neri Zilber broke down the plan comprehensively in his July 1st, piece.

Skepticism and Challenges

Despite its ambitious nature, the viability of this plan faces significant skepticism. One individual familiar with the proposal described it as a "fantasy" project to the Financial Times, pointing to the anticipated violent opposition from Hamas, internal discord within Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, and lukewarm support from Arab states. The initiative emerges after months of international pressure on Netanyahu's administration to devise a credible postwar governance strategy for Gaza. However, critics argue that this plan echoes previous, unsuccessful attempts during the war. However, the basis for this concept which was suggested in 2012 by an Israeli academic who is among the foremost experts on Palestinian Arab culture, was never implemented and is still being debated in academic and political circles.

Stressing how security is the key to this plan, a former senior Israeli official involved in postwar planning told Neri Zilber who broke down Israel's 'bubble' plan for the Financial Times: "We already tried this in three different parts of central and north Gaza, including with local clans. They were all either beaten up or killed by Hamas." The official's comment highlights the persistent dangers faced by those perceived as cooperating with Israel, and makes it apparent that Israel's security plan is essential to giving this plan a viable chance at success.

Recent Clashes and Hamas' Stance

Recent events underscore these dangers. Deadly clashes erupted last week between Hamas security personnel and a prominent clan in central Gaza, following Hamas' execution of the head of the Abu Amra family over alleged "receptivity" to Israeli overtures, according to a Gaza security source. Hamas has vehemently rejected any external interference in Gaza's future, declaring it would "sever any hand of the [Israeli] occupation trying to tamper with the destiny and future of our people."

Political Hurdles and International Dynamics

The plan's execution is further complicated by Netanyahu's consistent rejection of any role for the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and his refusal to consider a pathway to Palestinian statehood. Despite this stance, Netanyahu and his senior aides continue to assert that Arab governments will play a major role in postwar arrangements. Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel's national security advisor, has called for "top-down leadership" from moderate Arab countries, along with the US, EU, and UN, to create an "alternative to Hamas" in cooperation with local Palestinian leadership.

However, Arab officials have rebuffed such proposals, insisting on the involvement of the Palestinian Authority and concrete progress towards a Palestinian state. "Arab states will not support reconstruction in Gaza or postwar plans unless Israel takes concrete steps towards the establishment of a Palestinian state," an Arab diplomat told the Financial Times.

A Comprehensive Vision

The "humanitarian bubbles" concept is part of a broader three-tier postwar plan championed by the Israeli security establishment and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. This comprehensive scheme envisions an international coalition providing diplomatic and financial support, with Palestinian Authority officials and local leaders managing a new regime, and the "bubbles" being run by representatives from various stakeholders.

Plans are also in place to train a local Palestinian security force from within Gaza, with candidates being vetted by Majed Faraj, the Palestinian Authority's intelligence chief. However, resistance from top levels of the Netanyahu government has stalled progress on this extensive plan.

The Emirates Model

Israel's plan has some similarities to a 2012 proposal by Bar-Ilan professor, Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a renowned Middle East scholar. Kedar unveiled and has adocated since for what some call a revolutionary proposal—the "eight-state solution"—which he passionately argues is the only viable path to lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The innovative plan is rooted in the deep-seated tribal sociology of the Middle East, a cultural bedrock that Kedar insists must form the foundation of any genuine solution. 

Kedar's vision starkly contrasts with the failed Western-style nation-states imposed on the region, such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, which have crumbled under the weight of tribal divisions. In contrast, he points to the resounding success of states like the United Arab Emirates, where homogeneous tribal structures have paved the way for stability and prosperity. The UAE has become a beacon of freedom in the Gulf region, having embarked two decades ago on a path towards deradicalization that has resulted in a firmly Arab culture that is seen as the model for the renaissance of the deeply traditional Arab world.

In Kedar's plan, eight Palestinian city-states will emerge as beacons of self-governance and autonomy. These city-states include the Gaza Strip, Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, Tulkarm, Qalqilya, and the Arab part of Hebron. Each of these regions, rich in traditional tribal leadership, is poised to transition into self-governing emirates, a seismic shift in the political landscape. Israel's take on this model will begin in Gaza and on a small scale using enclaves of control rather than large cities and their surrounding villages.

Geographically, each emirate will not only govern its city but also its surrounding lands, creating robust and self-sufficient entities. These states will have the unprecedented freedom to determine their forms of government, enact their own laws, educate their populations, print their own currency, manage media, and develop thriving industries and commerce. Furthermore, residents will be empowered to seek employment opportunities in Israel, forging strong economic ties.

Kedar's proposal is not just about political restructuring; it's about giving control and responsibility to local residents, allowing them to shape their destinies. This plan promises to deliver self-governance and self-determination to the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs, a monumental step towards peace and stability. Israel's

The sparsely populated areas of Judea and Samaria will be annexed by Israel, with the residents offered the full benefits of Israeli citizenship. This aspect of the plan ensures a seamless integration, fostering unity and cooperation.

A Skeptical Outlook

As Israel prepares to test this experimental model, many observers remain doubtful of its success. "If you try to experiment just on the lower level, it won't work. Nobody will put money into this without a long-term comprehensive plan. There are no buyers," the former senior Israeli official told Zilber.

High Hopes

In conclusion, Israel's innovative yet controversial strategy for postwar Gaza represents a bold attempt to reshape the region's governance. While the creation of "humanitarian bubbles" offers a glimmer of hope for a more stable and prosperous Gaza, the plan's success hinges on overcoming significant internal and external challenges.

If this works though, it could be the start of Kedar's solution which would be nothing short of a paradigm shift. It would challenge conventional approaches and offer a fresh, culturally attuned blueprint for peace. This visionary plan, if realized, promises to transform the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a model of coexistence and mutual prosperity.  The world watches closely as Israel embarks on this ambitious endeavor, with the future of Gaza hanging in the balance.

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