By Alexandra Brzozowski
(EurActiv) — With Israeli forces now deep inside Gaza, some two weeks after the start of a ground operation to destroy the Islamist movement Hamas, EU foreign ministers on Monday (13 November) started looking into what the future may look like after the fighting ends.
“We need to focus on a medium and longer-term solution, a post-conflict scenario that can guarantee stability on an ongoing basis that will make it possible to build peace between Palestinians and Israelis and throughout the region,” EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell told reporters after the talks.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has said 11,240 Palestinians have been killed within the Gaza Strip by Israeli military actions since the 7 October Hamas terrorist attack, which killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli government figures.
Borrell outlined a “framework”, whose initial elements were discussed on Monday among ministers for the first time, he said was urgently needed to develop a “day after” solution for the Gaza Strip.
“We would need to work on it immediately, in collaboration with the United States and Arab states,” he said.
The United States has said that Palestinians should govern Gaza after the war but how that would work in practice remains open.
According to Borrell, the EU-discussed draft roadmap would include “three Yes’s and three No’s” for post-conflict Gaza.
Sketching a roadmap
According to the draft roadmap, the negative conditions would include no forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, no reduction of Gaza territory, Israeli re-occupation or return of Hamas and the issue of Gaza not being disassociated from the overall solution of the Palestinian issue.
The positive conditions would include finding actors who can help to build institutions, which would need to include actors whose legitimacy is to be defined by the [UN] Security Council, a stronger involvement of Arab countries in the search for solutions as well as greater involvement of the EU in the region and greater involvement of the EU in a two-state solution.
“We have been far too absent, we have delegated this solution to the US, but now the EU must be more involved because if we don’t find a solution we will experience a perpetual cycle of violence from generation to generation and funeral to funeral,” Borrell said.
Israel has vowed to destroy the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which governs Gaza, after its shock 7 October cross-border assault and has launched a full-scale invasion of the territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (12 November) threw up more doubts about the future of the Gaza Strip, saying that the Palestinian Authority in its current form should not take charge of the coastal enclave.
Jordan’s King Abdullah rejected any plans by Israel to occupy parts of Gaza or to create security zones within the enclave, state media said on Monday (13 November).
In comments he made at the royal palace, the king was quoted as telling senior politicians he met as saying there could be “no military or security solution” to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
He said the war-ravaged enclave of Gaza should not be severed by Israel from the other Palestinian Territories.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Borrell alluded to member states’ considerations of who would rule post-conflict Gaza, indicating the Palestinian Authority could be part of a wider political solution with an independent Palestinian state.
“We think that there has to be ‘yes’ to a Palestinian Authority, one Palestinian Authority, so aPalestinian authority with a legitimacy to be defined and decided upon by the [UN] Security Council,” Borrell said.
“It’s understandable that the Palestinian Authority doesn’t want to enter Gaza, on top of an Israeli tank,” he added.
Humanitarian aid access
Borrell will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as several Arab countries, as part of a wider effort to discuss humanitarian aid to Gaza and political issues with regional leaders.
“The UN is highlighting the lack of food and medicine and also the worrying lack of hospitals, many of which have collapsed or are near collapse,” Borrell said.
“We have got to get the humanitarian lorries through. We are currently talking about 40 lorries a day on the Rafah crossing [on the border with Egypt] and that is very little compared to the 500 lorries a day crossing before the war,” he added.
EU foreign ministers were also looking at a Cypriot proposal to open up a maritime corridor for urgent humanitarian aid for Gaza, Borrell said, though one of the problems was the lack of ports in the territory.
Israel tightly controls the waters off the coast of the Gaza Strip as part of its routine security operation, with fishers restricted to three nautical miles offshore.