What Comes after War in Gaza

This commentary was originally published in Time Magazine on October 12, 2023.

War contains many uncertainties, but there are some things about the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas that seem in little doubt. One is that Israel will deal Hamas a decisive blow. It will kill thousands of Hamas fighters, destroy the organization’s infrastructure, and neutralize much of its weapons stocks.

Another is that Israel will refuse a return to the status quo ante, as it has done in the four other times since 2007 that it has struck out against Hamas in Gaza. Israeli security officials had often called it “mowing the grass,” the unpleasant task that inevitably needs to be done periodically. That strategy has failed.

Yet the things that will determine who ultimately wins this war are entirely uncertain. What politics will emerge in Gaza after the fighting stops and the rubble is cleared? Who will be in control, and who will support them? Will Gazans see a pathway forward living in peace and prosperity, or will the voices of alienation and despair grow even louder and usher in a new cycle of violence?

Jon B. Alterman
Senior Vice President, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and Director, Middle East Program