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Western allies will want to know what Israel’s vision for Gaza’s future looks like

Operation Swords of Iron, as Israel has dubbed its campaign to eradicate Hamas from Gaza, has entered its third week with one of the heaviest bombardments yet of the Palestinian enclave.

Despite America “advising” Israel to delay its widely expected ground invasion to allow extra time to negotiate the release of hostages, US officials candidly acknowledged on Monday that they do not know whether such arguments will “move the needle” of Israeli thinking.

Yet, for all that Operation Swords of Iron may eventually allow Israel to declare victory over Hamas after incalculable suffering on both sides, there is increasing concern that there is no clarity over just how Gaza might be sustainably resurrected and governed in the absence of the murderous Islamist militia.

The desire for Israel to spell out its “endgame” in the Palestinian territory would seem to be shared from Washington to capitals across the Middle East where fears of a sustained regional conflagration are sky-high.

For now, Israel has said that it wants to absolve itself of any “responsibility for day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip”, apparently by effectively sealing itself off from the enclave once Hamas – and it would seem, tragically, much of Gaza itself – has been dismantled.

But experts argue the time for Israel to grasp the nettle of what a sustainable future might look like in Gaza – sketchy external suggestions range from the territory being handed over to the Palestinian Authority, to the introduction of Western or Arab UN peacekeepers – is now. Otherwise, it is hard not to conclude that Israel’s stated hope that this will be the last war in Gaza may prove forlorn.

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