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MANAMA, Bahrain – Jordan’s foreign minister voiced doubt on Saturday, November 18, that Israel could reach its goal of obliterating Hamas with its heavy bombardment and invasion of the Gaza Strip long dominated by the Palestinian Islamist movement.
“Israel says it wants to wipe out Hamas. There’s a lot of military people here, I just don’t understand how this objective can be realized,” Ayman Safadi said at the annual IISS Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain.
Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas since its deadly October 7 cross-border rampage into Israel. Since then, Israel has bombed much of Gaza City to rubble as it has subdued the enclave’s north and turned to stepping up attacks on Hamas in the south.
Israel’s devastating blitz of Gaza has raised questions over who would govern the densely populated enclave in the event of a Hamas defeat in the enclave it has ruled since 2007.
Regional power Saudi Arabia called at the conference for an immediate Israeli-Hamas ceasefire. “We are seeing civilians dying every day. And we need to end that today, not tomorrow,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
Israel has ruled out any ceasefire before its 240 hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 are freed. Hamas has vowed a long and sustained battle against Israel.
Brett McGurk, US President Joe Biden’s top adviser on the Middle East, told the Manama conference that the release of hostages held by Hamas would lead to a surge in the delivery of humanitarian aid and a significant pause in fighting in Gaza.
Who could run Gaza after war?
Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said a long-time failure to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict had spawned the current crisis.
“We…must consider that war is also an indication of political and diplomatic failure of the international community; all of us have failed solving this problem,” he said. “And the responsibility falls on all of us to find a solution.”
Israel’s blitz of Gaza has raised questions among world and regional powers and the United Nations over who would govern the tiny, densely populated territory in the event of a Hamas defeat in the enclave it has ruled for 16 years.
Only the Palestinian Authority (PA), the Western-backed entity that exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, could run Gaza after the Israel-Hamas war is over, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.
“Hamas cannot be in control of Gaza any longer,” Borrell told the Manama Dialogue, an annual conference on foreign and security policy. “So who will be in control of Gaza? I think only one could do that – the Palestinian Authority.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said the PA could play a role in administering Gaza if there was a full political solution – moves towards Palestinian statehood on lands Israel has occupied since 1967 – that also encompassed the West Bank.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have been frozen since 2014. The PA is deeply unpopular among Palestinians, perceived largely as a corrupt security subcontractor for Israel, and Israel is now under a hardline religious-nationalist government.
Hamas took over Gaza after a brief civil war in 2007 with Abbas’ Fatah party, and is deeply embedded in Gaza society with political, social and charitable organisations as well. Years of reconciliation talks between the rivals failed to reach a breakthrough for resuming PA administration of Gaza.
A senior official from the United Arab Emirates, which reached a US-brokered normalization accord with Israel in 2020, warned that a drawn-out Gaza conflict could breed radicalization across the wider Middle East.
“The longer the crisis takes, the more danger we have of the crisis spiralling out of control and I think we have to be very, very careful,” said Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE president.
The UAE and other conservative, oil-producing Gulf Arab states see Hamas and other Islamists as a threat to the stability of the Middle East and beyond. — Rappler.com