Sunday 3 December 2023 - 22:50

Netanyahu’s Buffer Zone Plan for Gaza: Impacts and Prospects

Story Code : 1100108
Netanyahu’s Buffer Zone Plan for Gaza: Impacts and Prospects
Simultaneous with the start of new round of bombardment of the besieged Gaza, Reuters, citing Netanyahu advisor Ophir Falk, reported that Israeli government has a plan for a ‘ buffer zone’ inside Gaza. 

“The plan is more detailed than that. It’s based on a three-tier process for the day after Hamas,” he told the Reuters. 

Outlining the Israeli government’s position, he said the three tiers involved destroying Hamas, demilitarizing Gaza and de-radicalizing the enclave. He added that the depth of the zone is not clear yet and could reach one of two or hundreds of meters inside Gaza. 

Israeli media outlets had earlier reported that Netanyahu told the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a meeting that his government intends to establish a deep security zone inside Gaza post-war. The Israeli PM informed Blinken that the Israeli regime will be responsible for security monitoring in the enclave. This is while Reuters quoted an American official as saying that “we are against any plan to reduce the area of Palestinian lands.” According to the report, the Israeli government has shared this plan with Jordan, UAE, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia, but a response is yet to be given.

Israeli goals behind buffer zone 

In the beginning of the war, the Israeli regime thought that it can occupy Gaza in a short time and forever get rid of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the two resistance groups holding Gaza. But things have not gone as the occupiers expected. But now, settling to the minimum, Tel Aviv unveiled buffer zone idea to achieve some of its goals. 

In this plan, the most important aim is to ensure security for the future. With this measure, Netanyahu’s government intends to guarantee the security of the settlements within fire range of Hamas rockets. To achieve this goal, Tel Aviv is likely to seek to deploy military bases in northern Gaza to act as a security barrier to the settlements around Gaza, and to restore security to terrified settlers and persuade them to return to their homes. Providing security guarantees to the settlers is highly vital for the regime, especially since the farming lands of this region, called Gaza envelope, provide a major part of food to the occupied territories. 

Also, by establishing a military base, Tel Aviv hopes to more actively watch the movements of resistance groups in Gaza. Before this, the Israeli army was stationed around Gaza seeking to predict the operation of Hamas by using satellite images and surveillance cameras and the feeding provided by its spies planted inside Gaza, but it was surprised on October 7 by the unprecedented Hamas operation. 

Additionally, by separating the north of Gaza, Netanyahu wants to promote it as a relative achievement against the resistance groups and pretend to the Israeli citizens that Tel Aviv entry into the Gaza war was not fruitless and from now on they can live in peace. 

The Israeli regime is seeking to implement its controversial plan while almost two months have passed since its barbaric attacks on Gaza, but it has failed to produce tangible outcomes on the battleground. Although the Israeli authorities claim that they are in control of northern Gaza, the ongoing clashes between the military wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam Brigades, and the Israelis in this region prove the opposite of the occupation leaders’ claim. The fact that the Israeli army yesterday asked the residents of Jabaliya, Shujaiya, El Zaytoun and Gaza City to evacuate immediately shows that many parts of this area are still out of the control of the occupation forces.

If the north was under the control of the Israeli forces, certainly the prisoner swap could not take place in the center of Gaza with the intense presence of Hamas forces. 

Also, thousands of residents of northern Gaza have returned to their homes last week, and this makes the Israeli road to setting up a buffer zone bumpy. Because any construction of a military base and guaranteeing the security of the settlers must be done in a peaceful environment without conflicts and local residents, but currently, the north of Gaza does not enjoy security and peace due to the extensive conflicts. 

On the other hand, the buffer zone idea is in conflict with the idea of Gaza run by an international administration. When the war erupted, Tel Aviv and its Western allies presented a scenario under which post-war and post-Hamas Gaza is run by an international coalition. But the new Israeli plan runs counter to this idea because in case of occupation of the north, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will be displaced to the south. 

Presently, Gaza is about 40 kilometers long and between 5 and 12 kilometers wide, and if half of this area is occupied by Israel, it will result in its 2.3 million people being trapped in a smaller area, and this high population density will give rise to many challenges. Additionally, new buildings and infrastructure should be constructed. Apart from this, Arab countries, and even the US, are yet to give a green light to this idea and so its implementation remains shrouded in mystery. 

Long way from Israeli dream to battlefield reality 

Netanyahu’s stopping short of full occupation of Gaza and settling for the northern part indicates that the Israeli occupation has failed to meet its goal of obliterating Hamas and knows that longer war only imposes additional costs without any outcomes. For the fear of larger casualties, the Israelis no longer send infantry with their tanks and armored vehicles. Naturally, the standing of Israeli forces on the Hamas’s complicated network of tunnels in the north will increase the resistance group’s chance of success in inflicting heavy tolls on the Israeli army.

On the other hand, buffer zone is a prelude to start of a war of attrition in which guerrilla groups like Hamas have an upper hand. Certainly, Hamas and other Palestinians will not agree to the creation of a buffer zone, since walking back against the Israeli regime will make way for the continuation of the occupation in the future, and if they do not force-stop this regime at this point of time, the Israeli hardliners will realize the plan to completely expel the Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. 

From another aspect, the buffer zone was earlier implemented in the West Bank as part of Israeli quest for security, but the resistance groups have dealt painful blows to the settlers in the past two years. 

The Israeli regime had complete control of Gaza from 1967 to 2005, but it could not resist the wave of Palestinian pro-liberation struggle and was forced into withdrawal. At that time, the only weapons of the Palestinians were stones and slingshots, but now the resistance groups have made great achievements in the field of missiles and drones, to an extent that the balance of power is being tipped not only in the occupied territories, but also in the region at its entirety. 

With the clashes in Gaza unfolding, Tel Aviv has difficulty realizing its goals and continued military presence in Gaza will bring about bigger damages. Now the international community and world public opinion are at a consensus that Gaza fate should be determined by Palestinians themselves and the presence of occupiers only fuels the fire of war.