Arab countries will not participate in any postwar plan that involves sending international troops to secure Gaza, Jordan’s foreign minister said on Saturday, characterizing such an idea as akin to asking others to clean up Israel’s mess.
The minister, Ayman Safadi, also argued that agreeing to participate in a post-conflict peacekeeping force would essentially give the Israeli military permission to destroy Gaza.
“There will be no Arab troops going to Gaza — none,” Mr. Safadi said at a regional security conference in Bahrain. “We are not going to be seen as the enemy.”
As the war between Israel and Hamas rages, postwar plans for Gaza are already being debated. In an opinion piece published in The Washington Post on Saturday, President Joe Biden outlined his vision for Gaza, which included calling on the international community to “commit resources” to help rebuild Gaza after the war, “including interim security measures.”
He also called for a two-state solution that would reunite Gaza and the West Bank under the rule of a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority. When asked about Mr. Biden’s opinion essay at a news conference on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel reiterated his stance that the Palestinian Authority could not rule postwar Gaza in its current form.
Since the Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel by Hamas — the armed group that runs Gaza and, according to the Israeli authorities, killed about 1,200 people — Israel has cut off most electricity, food and water for more than two million Palestinians who live in the territory. Israel’s military has also carried out a steady barrage of airstrikes and launched a ground invasion, battling for control of Gaza street by street.
“People are being killed day in and day out, and then we’re supposed to come and clean the mess after Israel?” Mr. Safadi said. “That’s not going to happen.”
Some Western officials have floated the idea that a peacekeeping force involving Arab countries could play a transitional role in Gaza after the war, a military campaign that Israeli officials have vowed must wipe out Hamas. But, at least in public, Arab officials have dismissed the notion that they could discuss any postwar plan before a cease-fire is implemented, and Mr. Netanyahu has vowed that Israel will maintain security control over Gaza “for an indefinite period.”
The division between the United States and its Arab allies over the war was on full display at the conference in Bahrain, where Arab, American and European officials sparred over the cause of the conflict and how to end it. Arab governments, many of them authoritarian, have faced significant pressure from their publics over the war, which has reinvigorated vocal support for the Palestinian cause and stoked anger not only toward Israel, but also the United States.
Sitting onstage alongside Brett McGurk, one of the White House’s top Middle East officials, Mr. Safadi said that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza was “not self-defense” but “blatant aggression.” He also argued that the international community was failing to hold Israel accountable to international law and was sending a message to people across the Arab world that “Israel can do whatever it wants.”
Mr. McGurk, in his own speech, said that the United States supported Israel’s defense while also making it clear “that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law.”
“We will not tell another country how to grieve or how to protect itself, but as friends and partners we will do our best, and offer our best advice,” he said.
Mr. McGurk also said that a pause in fighting and a surge of humanitarian aid into Gaza must be conditioned on Hamas releasing the more than 200 hostages it took from Israel in the Oct. 7 attacks.
When the floor opened for questions from the audience, Mr. McGurk was mobbed with critical inquiries about American policy in the Middle East.
Speaking on a subsequent panel, Anwar Gargash, a senior Emirati official, said he sometimes wondered whether the war was “another Iraq moment,” raising fears about how the conflict was fueling extremism and radicalization across the region.
Asked by audience members about their own countries’ policies for Gaza after the war, he and Abdullatif Al Zayani, the foreign minister of Bahrain, did not give clear answers.
“We are within an Arab consensus,” Mr. Gargash said, adding that what Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority want is “extremely important to us.”
“We can’t really come and sit down and say the next step will be some sort of a de facto administration over Gaza,” he said. “If we are not guided by the Palestinians, whatever we do will not be legitimate.”
Mr. McGurk said that from Washington’s perspective, the United States must “plan now” for the day after, even as the conflict continues.
“The Palestinian people and their voices and aspirations must be at the center of post-crisis governance in Gaza,” he said. “It is not simply about cleaning up after the war.”