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30 Nov, 2023 10:18

Israel and US moot Gaza exit for Hamas fighters – WSJ 

An arrangement similar to the Reagan-negotiated deal to lift the siege of Beirut is reportedly being discussed
Israel and US moot Gaza exit for Hamas fighters – WSJ 

The administration of US President Joe Biden is reportedly seeking a resolution of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza similar to that which President Ronald Reagan imposed on Israel during the 1982 siege of Beirut. 

Reagan at the time pressured then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin into halting the bombardment of the Lebanese capital. The US-mediated truce involved relocating thousands of Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) fighters to other nations. 

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Washington is discussing a similar arrangement for Gaza with the Israelis.

Under the proposal, thousands of fighters of the Palestinian militant group Hamas would be allowed to leave the besieged enclave. The newspaper did not directly attribute the idea to the US, calling it part of “evolving Israeli and American talks about who will run Gaza” after the hostilities end.

A forced expulsion would undermine the group’s power base in the territory. The viability of the idea remains in question, the report noted. “I don’t see them as rational as the PLO was,” an Israeli official told WSJ. “It’s a more religious, jihadistic organization connected to the ideas of Iran.”

Israel helped Hamas gain power, seeing it as a useful counterbalance to the secular PLO and its political wing Fatah, which currently controls the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank. Under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the policy, which was not publicly acknowledged, “was to treat the Palestinian Authority as a burden and Hamas as an asset,” according to the Times of Israel.  

The division among Palestinians helped Israel block talks on a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. During the talks, Israel pushed back on giving the PA control over Gaza after the hypothetical removal of Hamas, WSJ said.  

The large number of civilian casualties inflicted by Israeli forces during the siege of Beirut caused a diplomatic rift between Washington and West Jerusalem. Reagan halted the transfer of cluster munitions to Israel and even called the violence in Lebanon a “holocaust” in communications with Begin.  

The Israeli leader said he was hurt by the comparison, but downplayed the entire phone call as “one great misunderstanding.”

Biden is under increased pressure by lawmakers from his own party to condition military aid to Israel on a reduction of bombing in Gaza. The president told journalists last week it was a “worthwhile thought,” but the White House later made it clear that the remark had not indicated any policy change.