The current discussions, negotiations, and debates surrounding the aftermath of today’s war on Gaza go beyond the search for the future of the region, its political formulation, and who will govern it. The focus extends to the Palestinian issue as a whole, involving planning and thinking about the future of the entire region and its regional system, especially from the perspective of the U.S., which seeks to establish arrangements securing American, Western, and Israeli interests and solidifying alliances in the face of other regional fronts, whether involving Iran, Russia, or China.
The American visions for the post-Gaza status are still in the stages of maturation, bargaining, and discussion, at least based on leaked information from think tanks and media reports. Conversely, it is evident that the ideas prevalent during the early stages of the Biden administration, emphasising regional peace over political settlement, engagement in normalisation projects, and transforming the Palestinian cause into a daily economic matter, have dissipated. The current administration, lacking any clear peaceful resolution vision or project, now believes that regional affairs and the formation of regional alliances for “regional security” can only be achieved through a parallel path of peaceful settlement. However, there seem to be no compelling new and different ideas in this realm, except linking regional peace to a peaceful settlement, the reconstruction of Gaza, and Israel’s integration into the region.
Concerning the fundamental disputed issues in the final resolution of the peaceful settlement, the Biden administration is not expected to introduce anything substantially new compared to the Trump administration’s “Deal of the Century” and might even present a less favourable scenario. In the best-case scenario, this might entail a Palestinian state without sovereignty, an army, or defined borders, similar to what the Trump administration proposed for Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Of course, current Western, American, and Arab ideas also address the issue of the Palestinian Authority and the necessity of its reform, calling for fundamental changes. However, there remains a decisive Israeli rejection of any project linking the West Bank with Gaza and the return of the authority there. The question of the “Hamas dilemma” and its political future in light of new arrangements is also raised, with significant differences in the positions of international and regional parties on this matter.
This plan faces the same obstacles that stood before it in the past, primarily the inability of any Palestinian leader or politician to agree to it. Perhaps the Western and American wager this time is on the scale of the significant humanitarian disaster in Gaza, the deterioration in the Palestinian Authority’s situation, intense tension, and settlement behavior in the West Bank. This pressure may force Palestinian leaders to accept boundaries less favorable than before. However, the Israeli right-wing, currently holding the initiative in Israel, poses a greater challenge than the “required Palestinian concessions” demanded by the U.S. The Netanyahu government continues to reject withdrawing from Gaza or allowing the return of the Palestinian Authority, working to undermine any power or presence of the Palestinian Authority, even morally. Netanyahu has openly stated that the Oslo Accords were a mistake and rejects any outcomes they produced. It is evident that Netanyahu’s words are not just for appeasing Israeli right-wing sentiments but reflect the political doctrine of the majority trend in Israel today.
Therefore, the most challenging hurdle for Biden in the remaining time is dealing with Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Biden’s initial plan to influence Netanyahu did not succeed, despite unprecedented and generous support after the Al-Aqsa crisis. It is not clear how serious the Biden administration is and its ability to pressure Netanyahu to ease the significant right-wing burden in his government or even to influence Netanyahu and get rid of him through early elections in Israel. Netanyahu, on the other hand, is betting on the next U.S. president being Donald Trump, thus considering delaying and maneuvering with the Biden administration while attempting to prolong the war as the best option until his friend, the right-wing American Donald Trump, returns.
Within the new regional arrangements, there is an American inclination to give a larger role and broader space to Saudi Arabia. This includes its potential role in the Palestinian issue, reconstruction efforts, and as one of the pillars of the new regional order that the United States seeks to establish in the region. Notably, the prominent American academic and researcher, Wali Nasr, urges the Biden administration to give Saudi Arabia a more significant role, even in the ongoing negotiations with Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear file.
Of course, such stances represent a significant shift in the approach towards Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The size of the problems and crises that the Biden administration has faced in its relationship with him is well-known. Even before that, there was a major crisis between the former Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama and the Saudi government. This crisis had its roots in deep American reviews conducted after September 11, 2001. However, all of this now evaporates with the increasing American conviction of the regional importance of Saudi Arabia. It is a transformation within the Democratic Party, whereas Trump had already solidified the Republican Party’s stance when he formed close relations with Saudi Arabia and the Saudi Crown Prince. At that time, Saudi Arabia was on the verge of becoming a party to the later Abraham Accords, although those ideas were presented by the Trump administration.
Whether the current U.S. administration remains or changes, there are clearer indications of the key players in the region and the arrangements the United States wants to establish to reclaim regional influence anew.