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Israel’s ambassador to the United States is critical of Germany’s suggestion that the UN take control in Gaza, proposing instead that Israel control the Palestinian territory for an “undefined period of time.”
“I’m not sure the UN model is the best model because we don’t have a good experience with UN mandated forces,” Herzog said on Wednesday in an interview with POLITICO’s Power Play podcast.
“It’s highly political, we all understand that.”
Israel retaliated with daily airstrikes and a ground operation in densely-populated Gaza after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people. Israeli strikes have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians — including more than 4,500 children — and injuring tens of thousands of others, according to the Palestinian Authority.
Israel also imposed a complete siege on Gaza in the days after October 7, strangling the territory and cutting off food, fuel, water and electricity to 2.2 million people, most of whom relied on aid before the siege. The blockade resulted in what multiple U.N. officials and international organizations have called a humanitarian crisis. Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, has ceased to be operational in recent days as it ran out of fuel, shutting down life-saving equipment.
Germany floated the idea that the United Nations could take control in Gaza once the Israel-Hamas war is over, in a document seen by POLITICO.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen echoed the U.N. idea in her speech last week to the bloc’s ambassadors, but EU diplomats and the Palestinian side opposed the proposal. The idea is “unacceptable,” Abdalrahim Alfarra, head of the Palestinian Mission to the EU, Belgium and Luxembourg told POLITICO.
The role of the UN, Alfarra argued, is to provide international protection at the borders between two future countries, Israel and Palestine. Contrarily, the German suggestion is that the U.N. take “control of Gaza,” he said.
Israel’s Herzog also opposed the proposed U.N. role in Gaza — albeit for different reasons. “We need an effective force on the ground that can deal with terrorists and their infrastructure. That’s what we’re looking for. And there’s more than one model for that,” he argued.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would take “overall security responsibility” for Gaza “for an indefinite period.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and EU top diplomat Josep Borrell opposed this, saying Israel cannot reoccupy Gaza after the war ends.
Addressing fears of further Israeli occupation, Herzog said he “believe[s] that what our prime minister was aiming at was not that we will occupy Gaza, reoccupy Gaza, but rather that for an undefined period of time, we’ll still have to target terrorists in Gaza.”
However, Herzog repeated Netanyahu’s point that “even after we conclude the current phase of our operations, there will still be military infrastructure and terrorists that have to be dealt with. And for an undefined period of time, Israel will have to continue to carry out operations in Gaza. But we are open to other forces going in, regional or international.”
Herzog ruled out a cease-fire, saying it would “just invite the next war.”