RAMALLAH, Friday, November 16, 2018 (WAFA) – Former US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross Thursday came out in opposition to a devastating military defeat of Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip.
He reportedly said that Israel has the military might to defeat Gaza, but the question is what happens when it does.
“Then what?” he asked. “Israel doesn’t want to own or rule Gaza, nor can it hand it to the Palestinian Authority after a military defeat.”
The US diplomat warned that a crushing military defeat of Hamas would force Israel to rule the Gaza Strip or risk more radicalized groups taking over.
“What I worry about is, if you [Israel] go back in, you are stuck there, because if you leave, then there is a [power] vacuum,” Ross said. “Who fills the vacuum? You have Islamic Jihad, some ISIS-kind of groups” that could take over, he speculated.
Ross sounded skeptical about the possibility that the Palestinian Authority (PA) taking control of Gaza following Hamas’ defeat.
“I do not think the PA wants to look like they came in on the back of Israeli tanks. I am not even sure how you would do it, practically speaking,” Ross said.
"Israel is the only force powerful enough to police the area and ensure that it is not taken over by a group more radicalized than Hamas, but again, the PA would not want to govern an area where the security is ensured by Israel," he said.
Voicing his concerns about a crushing military defeat of Hamas, Ross said: “What I worry about is, if you [Israel] go back in, you are stuck there, because if you leave, then there is a [power] vacuum.”
“Who fills the vacuum? You have Islamic Jihad, some ISIS-kind of groups” that could take over, he speculated.
He pointed to the convergence of interests between Hamas and Israel in avoiding the slide into an all-out war and seeing Gaza ruled by radicalized groups.
“It’s a no-win scenario” for Israel, he said, adding that Hamas, like Israel, does not want to see such an outcome. “The irony is that both sides have good reason not to want this to become a war."
It is for this reason, he said, that in spite of the intensity of the exchange of fire between Hamas and Israel in the last two days, both sides left room for Egypt and the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov to continue to mediate an extended period of calm.
“Hamas has expanded the area of its targets, but there still is a ation of what they are firing at, which still looks as if they are trying to keep things within certain bounds,” he said. Israeli targets are qualitatively different that in past military engagements and the casualties are small, he said.
The ation appears to be a deliberate signal that both sides would prefer a non-military resolution, reported the Jerusalem Post.
Besides to avoiding slide into all-out war, sustained calm is necessary as it would allow a space for other options to be created that do not exist at this time, Ross said.
There are few options here at this time given that “you are not going to have peace with Hamas any time soon” and a two-state solution to the conflict is still far away from any resolution.
“If you want anything to happen on the peace issues itself more broadly speaking, you cannot have Gaza blowing up,” he said.
Ross made his comments during an interview with the Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of a conference in southern Israel.