In August 2014, after a serious Israeli-Hamas conflict, ideas were floated about what to do with Gaza, in a confidential options paper provided to The Times. It stated, presciently, that “a return to the status quo ante will produce a new war” and that the Palestinian Authority is “too weak and divided to govern.”
The best solution, the paper suggested, was authorizing United Nations forces to control Gaza’s borders while Palestinian militias are disbanded and disarmed and the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza is gradually lifted. In 2014, the paper presumed that Hamas would still control Gaza but might agree to moderate its behavior in return.
The paper also pointed out that the existing U.N. Truce Supervision Organization, founded in 1948, retains a legal mandate to patrol Gaza, even though it left in 1996 after the Oslo Accords. Under a reconfigured mandate, UNTSO could both patrol Gaza’s borders and help disarm militias, while another existing international committee would coordinate donor aid.
Nine years later, the paper may serve as a starting point. If Hamas and similar groups are destroyed in Gaza, as Israel vows, perhaps UNTSO could help keep the peace inside Gaza too as a kind of supplementary police force while the status and credibility of the Palestinian Authority are somehow resurrected there.
The 2014 discussion was real, said Robert Serry, a Dutch diplomat who served as the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. “We had hoped that the Palestinian Authority could be brought back,” he said.
While that may be as unrealistic now as then, each time “we allowed the situation to go back to the status quo,” with a fragile cease-fire and “minimum arrangements to keep Gaza afloat,” Mr. Serry said.
Now, he said: “I hope Israel learns a lesson. If they keep ignoring the Palestinian question, it will from time to time explode, it’s just a question of when.”