US and EU Back UN Force in Postwar Gaza, Adding Pressure on Israel

(Bloomberg) -- The US and its European allies are pushing a plan to deploy an international peacekeeping force in the Gaza Strip after the war, according to people familiar with the matter, raising pressure on Israel to bring its military operation to an end as civilian casualties mount.

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The people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations, said US and European officials concede big questions remain about whether such an operation would be workable in Gaza, and recognize that Israel remains highly skeptical of such a plan. But they said even discussing the idea may help push Israel to think more about wrapping up the campaign and consider what might come next.

The discussions, centered around the United Nations Security Council, remain preliminary. They come partly in response to growing international calls for a cease-fire in Israel’s assault on Hamas, which is labeled a terrorist group by the US and the EU.

In a sign of growing impatience with Israel’s offensive, which has killed more than 11,000 people, according to Hamas-backed authorities in Gaza, the Security Council Wednesday approved a resolution calling for humanitarian pauses in the fighting. The US didn’t use its veto to block the measure, in a rare break from its lock-step support of Israel.

One option being considered by US and European officials would involve an expanded role for the UN Truce Supervision Organization, which was first established in 1949 to help implement armistice agreements between Palestinian Arabs and Israel following the war that broke out in 1948 after the creation of the Jewish State.

Similar UN structures across the globe could be used as a template, the people said, pointing to a UN-backed troop deployment to Haiti led by Kenyan soldiers and another force mandated by the UN Security Council in Somalia to fight against the Islamic militant group Al-Shabaab.

US and Israel Weigh Peacekeepers for Gaza Strip After Hamas (2)

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. He and his aides have said that any plan for Gaza must involve the destruction of Hamas, the demilitarization of the strip and the deradicalization of its schools and social system. They’ve also said they expect their forces to have freedom of movement there for the foreseeable future.

The State Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. In Senate testimony last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US wanted a future for Gaza that didn’t include Hamas or Israel running the territory.

“Between those shoals are a variety of possible permutations that we’re looking at very closely now, as are other countries,” he said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing policy decisions, Israeli officials voiced skepticism that a UN force would be effective or able to take on such a task. They said that Israeli forces would need to enter and exit Gaza at will to make sure Hamas, or any other anti-Israel force, isn’t being rebuilt.

In the aftermath of Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, Israeli officials also have little trust for any outside body to go into Gaza, two regional diplomats said. Israel has had a strained relationship with the UN for years over many member states’ repeated push to condemn its actions.

Whatever the mechanism, the people said, Israel wants to see any armed presence on the ground be made up of Israel-friendly states. Arab countries from Saudi Arabia to Qatar want to make sure there is a sustainable plan for Palestinian leadership and a two-state solution before allowing any foreign presence in.

Arab countries remain reluctant to discuss plans in detail, officials said, sticking for the moment to public calls for a cease-fire amid broad public outrage at the suffering of Palestinian civilians.

There are also question marks over what will be left there to secure and how far Israel’s offensive will go.

“It’s extremely difficult to think of the endgame,” said Khaled al-Hroub, a professor at Northwestern University in Qatar. “But much depends on the final outcome of the war, and the degree to which Hamas is weakened.”

--With assistance from Ethan Bronner and Augusta Saraiva.

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