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What role, if any, should Arab states play in the future administration of Gaza?


Negotiations for a truce between Israel and Hamas have resumed in Cairo. Throughout the conflict, Egypt and Qatar have played leading roles in cease-fire negotiations, and this invites the question of whether these two Arab states could play a role in the future administration of Gaza, along with others. If so, which others, and should they? What should the post-war Gaza look like? To talk more about this, we're going to turn once again to Aaron David Miller. He's a veteran diplomat who spent decades advising U.S. officials of both parties on Middle East policy. He's now a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Aaron David Miller, good morning.

AARON DAVID MILLER: Good morning, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: Thanks for joining us once again. So let me start with some reporting from Politico that the Biden administration is, what they called, in preliminary conversations to fund a multinational peacekeeping force in Gaza after Israel ends military operations there, whenever that may be. That could include the assistance of Arab states. So let me just start with, why would Arab states agree to join a coalition like this?

MILLER: I mean, they wouldn't unless you had pretty restricted conditions under which they would operate. And I think we have to be pretty realistic here. I mean, there's not going to be a bright line between the end of the Israeli-Hamas war and a period of security and stability, where all of these ideas are going to be able to gain traction. Clearly, Hamas probably will survive as an insurgency. The Israelis are going to be operating in Gaza at some level, I would argue, for months to come. So right now, I think everyone is hostage to events on the ground.

MARTIN: So let's look at both sides of this. What are the factors on the ground that would make Arab states want to participate, and what are the factors on the ground that would make Arab states reluctant to participate?

MILLER: I mean, no one's interested in a permanent Israeli occupation of Gaza, least of all, I suspect, the Israelis. So I think there - clearly, Americans have a stake in day-after Palestinian governance, trying to create some sort of security regime that would stabilize the situation and create an alternative, certainly with respect to Palestinian governance, to Hamas.

The problem is I think the Israelis in the Arab states have much different conceptions of what such a peacekeeping force would be. The Israelis are talking about a Arab forces sort of transition to oversee humanitarian aid and come up with a sort of alternative structure - security structure, to Hamas. I think the Americans in key states have a much different vision in mind. Number one, for key Arab states, whether it's Egypt, Jordan, the Emiratis, the Moroccans, Gaza first can't be Gaza only, so it's got to be tethered to some political horizon. And what everyone's talking about, I think, is the least bad alternative to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is two states.

The other problem, I think, is whether or not any Arab state would be able to participate if the Israelis are still operating militarily against Hamas in Gaza. And, finally, I think you have the issue of U.S. leadership. I don't think any Arab state is going to be willing to participate in any sort of peacekeeping force without the United States taking a key leadership role, and that's going to mean a U.S. commitment to two states, but perhaps even more important, an American understanding with the Israelis...


MILLER: ...That the Israelis are committed to irreversible and practical steps toward Palestinian statehood. And right now, frankly, that's more appropriate to a galaxy far, far away than the realities back here on planet Earth.

MARTIN: Interesting. Of course. OK, very briefly, if you could - and, of course, we - that doesn't even address the question of how the Palestinians would feel about this, but let me just end on this. The Biden administration has made it clear it will not send troops to Gaza. But if peacekeeping forces are eventually needed and a coalition led by Arab states not possible, could the United States get brought in?

MILLER: I think the United States could lead from afar to help support and organize, but the prospects of American boots on the ground in Gaza anytime soon - the prospects of that are slim to none.

MARTIN: We're going to have to leave it there for now. That's Aaron David Miller. He's a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered and host of the Consider This Saturday podcast, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.