The Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration wants the “revitalized” Palestinian National Authority to take over the rule of the Gaza Strip after the end of the war.
But the idea is not very popular in Israel, and even among many Palestinians, Israelis do not want to take on the job, and Arab states resist the idea.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas may volunteer to take over, “but the Palestinian people probably don’t want him.”
As the Biden administration embarks on postwar planning in Gaza—with problematic questions such as who runs the Strip once the guns fall silent, how it can be rebuilt, and perhaps how it eventually becomes part of an independent Palestinian state—stakeholders are faced with a range of ‘unattractive’ options.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to push those discussions forward, but there were few easy answers to those questions. The Biden administration is advocating for the “installation” of the Palestinian Authority after the “revitalization” of its role in governing Gaza; however, this notion is not well-liked by the Israeli government, not even among many others.
U.S. officials acknowledge that they face this challenge, but say the PA is the best—and perhaps the only—solution out of a list of ‘bad’ options, including a return to Israel’s direct occupation of Gaza.
Blinken was quoted as telling reporters during his recent visit to Tel Aviv: “We have no illusions that (the solution) will be easy. We will undoubtedly suffer from disagreements along the way,” he said, adding that “the alternative — a lot of violence and increased suffering for innocent people — is unacceptable.”
The newspaper reiterated that Israel pledged – following the attack by the Palestinian resistance movement (Hamas) on the seventh of last October – to eliminate Hamas as a ruling military entity.
However, Hamas has been deeply entrenched in the Gaza Strip for more than 15 years in all sectors of society, not only in government ministries, but also in charities, courts, mosques, sports teams, prisons, municipalities and youth.
Hamas has since overseen the economy, health care, water, electricity, trade, infrastructure and security, and “remains very popular among many Palestinians after the offensive.”
The current and previous administration’s efforts have focused on mediating Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbors, at the expense of Palestinians who have become ‘marginalized’ themselves and their cause.
Now, the Palestinians are back ‘thanks to Hamas’ to the forefront, and even the week-long halt in the Israeli offensive on Gaza has been arranged in such a way as to increase its popularity.
While U.S. officials blame Hamas for the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, they acknowledge that Israel’s harsh response has fueled Palestinian anger and impeded progress toward a more sustainable peace.
According to the Israelis, they do not want to retake Gaza. However, they are talking about enhancing security measures including establishing a buffer zone along the Israeli border and the potential for Israeli military to enter the area during a transitional period that would eliminate some elements of self-rule for Gazans.
The Biden administration “vehemently” opposes any restrictions on how Gazans can use their land and is looking forward to handing over responsibility to Israeli forces, possibly to international forces pledged by Arab states, for the security of the territory.
On the other hand, many think that the course of the war will hamper future planning. Experts quoted by the newspaper describe the question of who will maintain law and order after the conflict as “very complex”.
Israeli authorities acknowledge the need for such plans, as quoted by U.S. officials they met last week, but they have no concrete proposals and seem to want others to decide.
Dennis Ross, a former adviser to two US presidents from both the Democratic and Republican parties and a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that after the conflict ends, a stable transition in Gaza will need to find a way to “allow for disarmament, with a mechanism in place to ensure that no one can be rearmed.”
The PA needs to change “if it is to run everything in Gaza,” the Post said, quoting Ross as saying that the issue “is not so much that they (PA officials) will not be able to come on the back of Israeli tanks, as much as they cannot manage themselves now.”
Israelis do not want UN peacekeepers because they do not trust the UN’s ability to respond to their concerns. Arab states are deeply skeptical about sending their security forces because they are concerned about the idea of having to impose force on the Palestinians if the need arises.