Lord Peter Ricketts, the former chair of the UK’s intelligence committee under Tony Blair and former national security adviser to David Cameron, went on BBC radio’s hugely influential Today program on 30 October to discuss what happens after Israel achieves its objectives in the Gaza Strip.
The presenter earnestly put forward the Israeli plan to “hold that territory without the population in it.”
The noble lord dissented on the grounds that the only place those people could be sent to is Egypt (allowing them back to their original towns and villages in what is now Israel obviously never crossed his mind), and no Egyptian regime, however subservient (not his words), could ever accept that.
Instead, he proposed that “moderate Arab countries could come together and promote some sort of stability” in a post-holocaust Gaza. There would “have to be some sort of moderate Arab coalition which could produce some moderate Palestinians who were willing to work with Israel.”
Being a renowned Middle East expert, he conceded that it would “be a pretty brave country, actually, that could take on the administration of Gaza,” but insisted he cannot “see any other alternative.”
The interview ended before he could elaborate or the interviewer question his assumptions, but it got me thinking about who those coalition partners might be.
The king of Jordan usually comes top of the list when the US wants things to be done in the Middle East. But even he wouldn’t want to go so far as losing his throne before the refurbishment of his cliff-top mansion complex in Malibu is complete.
Doves of peace
There’s another moderate Arab kinglet in Bahrain who also always does whatever he’s told. But he barely has enough police to suppress his own population – he has to recruit them from abroad – let alone impose his brand of order on others.
The king of Morocco, who recognized Israel in exchange for then US President Donald Trump recognizing his claim to Western Sahara, is also highly obliging. But to understand why he can’t play ball here, just listen to the chants of the amazing supporters of Casablanca’s Raja football club.
Other Arab rulers who cozied up to Israel as part of Trump’s Abraham Accords include the then twin leaders of Sudan. But they’re too busy wrecking their own country right now to preside over the wreckage of another.
Both warring sides in Libya have also courted Israel to gain favor with Washington. Maybe the US could try to get them to transfer their nation-building skills to Gaza (as it got some of them to do to Syria).
But they’re small fry. Big money is needed here.
The mega-rich rulers of the UAE have been by far the most enthusiastic of the Arab normalizers (good for business).
Maybe they’re thinking of turning what’s left of Gaza into a giant shopping mall/tourist resort (it has great beaches and a milder climate than Dubai’s), after bulldozing all the rubble into the sea to create artificial islands shaped as doves of peace.
That still leaves the question of what to do with the population.
Enter Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. He’s been playing hard-to-get with the Israelis until now, but has meanwhile been preparing the solution: move all those pesky Palestinians to the fantasy mega-city of NEOM.
Najm Jarrah is a Palestinian Londoner and a former journalist.