TEL AVIV — Israel is far from knowing what to do about Gaza after it, in theory, brings down Hamas and rids the enclave of its leaders. As Yoav Mordechai, a retired Israeli major general, asks in his colorful Arabic, “Ba'adein?” — What then? A former coordinator of government activities in the territories, Mordechai is also one of the many people involved in the complicated hostage release negotiations with Hamas.
Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi has said in recent weeks that after ridding Gaza of Hamas, control of the territory should be handed to the Palestinian Authority (PA). This is not Israel’s official position, however. In fact, a clear majority among the ruling Likud party opposes the PA's return to the territory, from which Hamas ousted it in 2007. The extreme right-wing Religious Zionism and Jewish Power parties in the governing coalition have completely discounted the idea.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintains ambiguity on the matter, rejecting various ideas, such as Israel occupying Gaza, but without offering alternatives. The only scenario to which he has committed is maintaining Israeli military control throughout the territory, as Israel has done for decades in the West Bank. His reluctance to commit is clearly linked to his own personal and political postwar future, which is almost as cloudy as Gaza’s.
"Israel has three options," a senior former security source told Al-Monitor, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "One of them is excellent, the second is bad, the third is not bad but unrealistic.”