‘Pipe dream’: Why is the US pushing the Palestinian Authority to lead Gaza? | Israel-Palestine conflict news

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Washington, DC – US officials have increasingly suggested that the Palestinian Authority (PA) should rule Gaza after Israel announced its goal of eliminating Hamas, the group currently in power. to control the land.

But analysts warn that the proposal may be unrealistic and premature, as the Israel-Hamas war approaches the start of its seventh week.

US President Joe Biden and his top aides have reiterated their full support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza, yet Washington has offered signs of what it would like to see from it. after the conflict.

The Biden administration said it does not support Israel’s indefinite military presence on the land, and opposes easing the siege or permanently evicting the population.

But if Israel succeeds in driving Hamas out of Gaza – a goal that is far from certain – there would be many obstacles in bringing the PA back to Gaza, including Israeli opposition.

Earlier this month, PA President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to predict the return of authority to Gaza on the condition that a “political solution” to the conflict be reached, one that would include the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as the capital of the country.

“On many different levels, this is just a pipe dream,” Osamah Khalil, a history professor at Syracuse University, said of giving Gaza to the PA.

Why is the US pushing for it?

Khalil said the Biden administration is facing significant pressure on its support for Israel, due to the atrocities it is accused of committing in Gaza. At least 11,500 Palestinians have been killed so far, with United Nations experts warning that there is a “grave risk of genocide” in the land.

So the Biden camp is trying to change the focus to the end of the conflict, by saying that Palestinians must control Gaza itself in the end, explained Khalil.

“It’s for a domestic audience because there is a complete lack of political will in the United States – especially going into an election year – to hold Israel accountable,” Khalil told Al Jazeera.

He said that there is “a serious lack of new ideas in Washington”, leading to a policy of “avoiding conflict resolution and focusing on conflict management”.

Both the US and Israel have refused to be able to deal with Hamas politically after the war.

How did we get here?

The PA – which is controlled by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and its parent group, Fatah – was formed in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords, which sought to transfer the Palestinian territories from Israeli military control to civilian leadership. .

Oslo eventually promised a Palestinian state, but the so-called peace process never led to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Over the next decade, the PA continued to maintain a limited form of autonomy over the West Bank and Gaza, coexisting with an Israeli occupation that had almost total control over security matters there. the Palestinian territories.

In 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and abolished its settlements in Gaza, but maintained control of movement in and out of the coastal enclave.

A year later, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in a blow to the PA.

With Hamas committed to armed struggle against Israel and Fatah adhering to the peace process, the two parties could not reconcile their differences.

At the same time, there was more international pressure on Hamas, and fighting broke out between the group and the PA. In 2007, Hamas took over Gaza and has controlled the land since then. For its part, the PA remained in the West Bank while Israel proceeded with settlement expansion there.

The partition effectively divided the Palestinian national movement. Repeated attempts to close the gap with settlement agreements have fallen apart.

With the peace process frozen, Israel blockaded the Gaza Strip while strengthening its military position in the West Bank with the support of the US, in violation of international law.

What did US officials say?

Operating under the assumption that Hamas will be eliminated before the end of the current Israeli offensive, the US is now looking to the PA to rule Gaza again.

Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf told lawmakers last week that the PA is the “only Palestinian government to come out of the Oslo Accords.”

“Regardless of its shortcomings, it is the government for the Palestinians in the West Bank,” said Leaf. “We believe that Palestinian voices and aspirations must ultimately be central to post-conflict governance and security in Gaza. “

She said “the appropriate place to look for governance is the PA”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken also suggested that the PA would eventually take over Gaza. He said earlier this month that lasting peace “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza united with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority”.

Biden and his supporters have also talked about reviving a two-state solution to the conflict.

However, Khalil Jahshan, executive director of the Washington DC Arab Center, a think tank, said that as long as the US does not call for a ceasefire, it is a “waste of time” to talk about what happens after the war

He said that Palestinians should have one authority in the West Bank and Gaza – but after a ceasefire and democratic elections.

“But to bring a largely dysfunctional Authority in the West Bank to complete rubble in Gaza is a formula for disaster,” Jahshan told Al Jazeera. Israeli bombing has damaged almost half of the residential buildings on the land.

Khalil, the history professor, echoed Jahshan’s comments about the unfeasibility of the US proposal.

“Israel has no intention of agreeing to a Palestinian state,” Khalil told Al Jazeera. “And in the end, the PA cannot come back in behind 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 establishment of a Palestinian state, has almost dismissed the comments of his American allies, saying Israel would maintain security control over Gaza.

“Gaza has to be demilitarized and Gaza has to be deradicalized,” he told NBC News last week. “And I think, so far, we haven’t seen a force Any Palestinian, including the Palestinian Authority, can do that.”

Jahshan said the US is unlikely to put meaningful pressure on Israel toward a broader resolution of the conflict anyway.

“This administration has proven that they are unable to show the political will or the moral will or the diplomatic skills to bring us closer to that idea,” Jahshan told Al Jazeera. “So he preaches it, but only as a defense mechanism for diplomatic failure in the region. It is not a rational option.”

Khalil also suggested that the US is not serious about solving the conflict. He said the US wants the return of the PA to ease internal disagreements over Western aid to Israel.

By talking about a future regime, Khalil said, it also buys the Israelis more time to achieve such an elusive victory in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at Muqata in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, November 5, 2023 [File: Jonathan Ernst/Pool photo via AP]

Khalil noted that after more than 40 days of non-stop bombing, Israel is still far from neutralizing Hamas. The Palestinian group continues to target Israeli soldiers.

Israeli forces have also failed to free the prisoners captured during the October 7 Hamas attack, and have not killed senior political or military leaders from the Palestinian group.

What did the PA say?

However, President Abbas, 88, has expressed his willingness to bring the PA back to Gaza, but only as part of a wider solution.

“We will fully accept our responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes the entire West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,” he said. Abbas told Blinken with the official Palestinian news agency Wafa earlier this month.

But for some analysts, the PA’s shortcomings in the West Bank and its increasingly aging and isolated leadership make it a starting point for leading a Palestinian national movement.

Adam Shapiro, director of Israeli-Palestinian advocacy at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a US-based rights group, pointed to Israel’s deadly raids and settler violence that occurred almost daily. across the West Bank, right under the PA’s nose.

“It’s really interesting,” Shapiro said of proposing the PA as a solution for Gaza. “It raises the question of whether these officers think we are not paying attention, or whether they are just not paying attention. “

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