Washington DC – United States officials have increasingly suggested that the Palestinian Authority (PA) should rule Gaza once Israel has achieved its goal of eliminating Hamas, which currently controls the territory.
But analysts warn that the proposal may be unrealistic and premature, as the war between Israel and Hamas nears the start of its seventh week.
US President Joe Biden and his top aides have repeatedly expressed their full support for the Israeli offensive in Gaza, but Washington has nevertheless offered signs of what it would like to see in the aftermath of the conflict.
The Biden administration said it does not support an indefinite Israeli military presence in the area, and opposes reducing the size of the enclave or permanently displacing its population.
But if Israel manages to oust Hamas from Gaza — a goal that is far from guaranteed — the PA will face several obstacles, including Israeli opposition, to getting Gaza back.
Earlier this month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to predict a return to authority in Gaza on the condition that a “political solution” to the conflict is reached, which would include the creation of a Palestinian state. The capital will be East Jerusalem.
“On many different levels, it’s just a pipe dream,” Osama Khalil, a history professor at Syracuse University, said of the PA handing over Gaza.
Why is America emphasizing it?
Khalil said the Biden administration is facing increasing pressure to support Israel, blamed for atrocities in Gaza. At least 11,500 Palestinians have been killed so far, with UN experts warning of a “serious threat of genocide” in the region.
That’s why the Biden camp is trying to shift the focus toward ending the conflict by insisting that the Palestinians will eventually have to self-govern Gaza, Khalil explained.
“This is for a domestic audience because there is a complete absence of political will in the United States — especially going into an election year — to hold Israel accountable,” Khalil told Al Jazeera.
He added that there is a “complete lack of fresh ideas in Washington”, leading to a policy of “avoiding conflict resolution and focusing on conflict management”.
Both the US and Israel have ruled out the possibility of a political deal with Hamas after the war.
How did we get here?
The PA – controlled by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its dominant faction, al-Fatah – was established in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords, which transitioned the occupied Palestinian territories from Israeli military control to civilian leadership. Tried to hand over.
Oslo promised an eventual Palestinian state, but the so-called peace process never resolved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Over the next decade, the PA continued to oversee a limited form of autonomy over the West Bank and Gaza, coexisting with an Israeli occupation that has full control over security matters in the Palestinian territories.
In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and dismantled its settlements in Gaza, but it maintained control over movement in and out of the coastal zone.
A year later, Hamas won Palestinian legislative elections in a blow to the PA.
Due to Hamas’s armed struggle against Israel and Fatah’s adherence to the peace process, the two parties were unable to resolve their differences.
Meanwhile, Hamas faced increasing international pressure, and fighting broke out between the group and the PA. In 2007, Hamas seized Gaza and has maintained control of the area ever since. For its part, the PA remained in the West Bank as Israel pursued its settlement expansion there.
The rift effectively divided the Palestinian national movement. Repeated attempts to bridge the gulf through reconciliation agreements have failed.
After the peace process froze, Israel blockaded the Gaza Strip and reinforced its military occupation of the West Bank with US support, in violation of international law.
What have US officials said?
Operating under the assumption that Hamas will be eliminated by the end of Israel’s current offensive, the US is now looking to the PA to once again govern Gaza.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told lawmakers last week that the PA is “the only Palestinian government that has come out of the Oslo Accords”.
“Whatever its shortcomings, this is a Palestinian government in the West Bank,” Leif said. “We believe that ultimately the voices and aspirations of the Palestinians must be central to post-conflict governance and security in Gaza.”
“PA is a good place to look for governance,” he added.
Secretary of State Antony Blanken also suggested that the PA would eventually take over Gaza. He said earlier this month that a lasting peace “must include a Palestinian-led government and Gaza united with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority”.
Biden and his aides have also talked about restoring a two-state solution to the conflict.
However, Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Arab Center in Washington, D.C., a think tank, said it was a “waste of time” to talk about what happens after the war unless the United States calls for a ceasefire.
He added that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza should have the same authority, but only after a ceasefire and democratic elections.
“But to bring a dysfunctional authority in the West Bank essentially on top of a pile of rubble in Gaza is a formula for disaster,” Jahshan told Al Jazeera. About half of the residential buildings in the area have been damaged by Israeli bombardment.
Khalil, a history professor, echoed Jahshan’s comments about the impracticality of the American proposal.
“Israel has no intention of agreeing to a Palestinian state,” Khalil told Al Jazeera. “And finally, the PA cannot come back on the backs of Israeli tanks and say, ‘We are the new authority’.”
What did Israel say?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud party opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, has rejected claims by his US allies that Israel will maintain security control over Gaza.
He said that Gaza must be demilitarized and Gaza must be radicalized. NBC News Previous Week. “And I think, so far, we haven’t seen any Palestinian force, including the Palestinian Authority, that is capable of doing that.”
Jahshan said it was unlikely that the US would pressure Israel in any way for a broader solution to the conflict.
“This administration has proven that it is unable to show the political or moral strength or diplomatic skills to bring us closer to this idea,” Jahshan told Al Jazeera. “So it’s preaching it, but only as a defensive mechanism for its own diplomatic failure in the region. That’s not a realistic option.”
Khalil also suggested that the US was not serious about resolving the conflict. He said the US was launching a PA withdrawal to end internal disagreements over Western support for Israel.
Speaking about the future rule, Khalil added, the Israelis are getting more time to achieve a hitherto unbeaten victory in Gaza.
Khalil noted that after more than 40 days of continuous bombing, Israel is still far from neutralizing Hamas. The Palestinian group is targeting Israeli soldiers.
Israeli forces have also failed to free prisoners taken during the October 7 attack by Hamas and have not killed the Palestinian group’s senior political or military leaders.
What did the PA say?
Still, 88-year-old President Abbas has expressed willingness to bring the PA back to Gaza, but only as part of a broader solution.
“We will fully assume our responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes East Jerusalem and the entire West Bank, including the Gaza Strip,” Abbas was quoted as saying by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa earlier this month. Told Blanken.
But to some analysts, the PA’s shortcomings in the West Bank and its aging and isolated leadership make it a non-starter to lead a Palestinian national movement.
Adam Shapiro, director of Israel-Palestine advocacy at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a U.S.-based rights group, has reported on Israel’s deadly raids and near-daily attacks in the West Bank. Alluded to the violence of the settlers. Under the PA’s nose.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” Shapiro said of proposing the PA as a solution to Gaza. “It raises the question of whether these officials think we’re not paying attention, or if they’re just not paying attention.”