The day after

Task Force proposes plan for internationally financed Gaza reconstruction

Its centerpiece is a proposal for a new Arab-backed international trust that would lead the effort to rebuild Gaza

Rizek Abdeljawad/Xinhua via Getty Images

A man stands among the rubble in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, on Feb. 28, 2024.

A new task force of former national security officials and business leaders released a proposal on Thursday to facilitate the rehabilitation of Gaza, eschewing some of the most common proposals for a post-war Gaza. Its centerpiece is a proposal for a new Arab-backed international trust  that would lead the effort to rebuild Gaza.

The report concludes that most of the proposals floated for post-war Gaza — including prompt movement toward a two-state solution, near-term Palestinian Authority control, a United Nations mission, an on-the-ground Arab state mission or long-term Israeli control — are likely infeasible in the short term or practically or politically untenable. It argues instead for a new private entity supported by several Arab states to be established to both oversee and facilitate humanitarian aid and assist with efforts to establish new Palestinian governance in Gaza.

The Gaza Futures Task Force, which issued the report, is operating through the Jewish Institute for the National Security of America and the Vandenberg Coalition, and includes John Hannah, Elliot Abrams, Eric Edelman, Gary Ginsberg, Emily Harding, Lewis “Scooter” Libby and Steven Price.

The report proposes that the trust could begin reconstruction operations in areas that Israel has cleared of terrorist activity while Israeli operations elsewhere in Gaza continue. It would, per the proposal, be funded by Arab states like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, with the backing of the U.S., blessing of the Palestinian Authority and cooperation with Israel.

Hannah, who led the effort, told Jewish Insider the plan seeks to provide a path to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and begin to establish long-term stability while allowing Israel to fully complete its efforts to root out Hamas and other terror groups inside Gaza.

The trust, an independent entity, would be run by a board made up of representatives from the U.S. and the Arab states that contribute to it. It would also seek to recruit Gazans for advisory roles. It would recruit vetted personnel and contractors to carry out operations on the ground.

To ensure security for the trust’s operations, the plan proposes recruiting troops from non-Arab states friendly with Israel, as well as vetted Palestinians like those who served in pre-Hamas Fatah police units. Failing that, the plan suggests bringing in private military contractors who have worked with western authorities in the past.

Hannah acknowledged that this proposal is likely to face particular skepticism, given the checkered history of some security contractors, which some argue damaged the U.S.’s reputation and efforts in the Middle East.

“We recognize that there are some associations, in particular, because of some of the experiences during the War on Terror with one or two companies,” he said. “But we’re pretty confident, having done significant interviews with people in the U.S. military who were deeply engaged after some of those incidents in developing a very comprehensive framework of licensing and monitoring and accountability for these kinds of private security firms that they can play very useful and effective roles.”

Hannah said the trust would need to operate as an independent entity because it would be both impractical and risky to put Arab-state troops or diplomats on the ground in Gaza while Israeli operations continue, potentially putting them in conflict with Israel troops or with Palestinians — both situations he said could have severe political and diplomatic repercussions for the Arab states and Israel.

The body would work to surge humanitarian aid into Gaza, reconstruct infrastructure and critical services, implement deradicalization programs and identify and empower vetted Gazans who can serve in leadership roles and governance structures. The plan also pushes to sideline the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, arguing that the Gaza trust should work with it in the short term but seek to phase it out.

According to a JINSA press release, senior U.S. and Middle Eastern officials have been briefed on the plan.

Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, have told lawmakers recently that they’re open to becoming involved in the Gaza reconstruction, but only with a concrete plan for moving toward a two-state solution. 

The plan proposes something short of that: that the relevant parties agree in principle to a two-state solution as “the desired goal, the future end-state toward which everyone is working,” while also “implicitly recogniz[ing] the cold reality that neither Israel nor the Palestinians will be ready for successful two-state negotiations in the near term.”

Despite calls in Washington and the region for a revitalized PA to take the lead in reconstructing Gaza, the proposal argues that the PA is months or years from a point where it is credibly prepared to take on such responsibility. It states that the PA must be fundamentally reformed before it is ready to take over governance in Gaza or a seat at a negotiating table with Israel.

“Not taking the necessary overhaul of Palestinian politics seriously, and instead rushing ahead with glossy and cosmetic quick fixes, high-level diplomatic gambits, elections, and reunification of the West Bank and Gaza will almost certainly backfire across the board,” the report argues. “Pretending that this can be accomplished easily or quickly, and that it will presage early movement to negotiating and creating a Palestinian state in the near term, will be counterproductive and raise dangerous, unrealizable expectations.”

The plan also argues that any long-term Middle East peace effort must include robust work to address Iran’s destabilizing role throughout the region, including strong efforts to push back Hezbollah, aggressive work to counter Iran’s nuclear program and the establishment of a regional anti-Iran coalition.

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