Thu 09 Nov 2023 8:28 am - Jerusalem Time

Hebrew Press| Controlling Gaza is too big a task for the Authority - but it still has a job the next day

Author Michael Milstein

The progress of the military battle in Gaza poses the question of what the next day will look like after Hamas is removed from its position as a leader in the region. In this context, a new old idea is presented, which is essentially an Israeli wish, according to which the Authority will return and control the Gaza Strip as it was until 2007, before Hamas took control by force.

This goal must be analyzed carefully. Authority has been absent from Gaza for nearly 20 years, a period during which a young generation grew up, in whose awareness Hamas implanted that Abu Mazen is “one of the most severe enemies of the Palestinians” and “responsible for the distress of the people of Gaza.” Moreover, the Authority has no real bases in Gaza, Fatah is divided among competing camps, and Abu Mazen’s authority faces difficulties in controlling the West Bank. Therefore, controlling 2.2 million Palestinian rebels in an area would be completely devastating. This is beyond Abbas' capabilities. Most importantly of all - it does not seem that the authority is currently interested in carrying out this difficult task.

However, the Authority should not be ignored the next day. The set of strategic alternatives available to Israel is bad, and it must choose between bad and less bad. In this context, the possibility of establishing a local administration based on forces from within the Gaza Strip and not linked to Hamas, such as mukhtars, for example, prominent businessmen and academics, and officials from Fatah, emerges. All of this is due to deep interference from Israel, Egypt, America and the Arab countries, with the exception of Qatar, which has proven to have a negative influence in the Palestinian arena.

The future function of this entity will focus on providing services to the public, rebuilding the Gaza Strip, and maintaining public order. It is preferable that its relationship with the Authority be close, and that there be some kind of symbolic responsibility for Ramallah over the reality in Gaza. In the first stage, the general system of the new authority is likely to face major challenges, most notably the widespread public distrust. It may also face effective resistance from the remnants of Hamas and the rest of the “terrorist” organizations in the Gaza Strip. However, if it obtains external financial and political support, it could stabilize after some time, and allow the Palestinian Authority to establish itself as a single address for the two Palestinian areas.

This alternative is the “least bad,” and implementing it will force Israel to make contributions and concessions. First - when Gaza is no longer controlled by any party affiliated with “Hamas” - Israel will have to intervene in recruiting foreign aid to it - something that does not include stopping the supply of water and electricity and the transit of goods and people, which must be maintained in order to maintain the historical separation from the Gaza Strip. .

Secondly, it will be necessary to engage in in-depth dialogue on the future of relations with the Palestinian regime. In this context, the central dilemma that emerged in the October 7 massacre must be resolved: On the one hand, it is clear to the majority of Israelis today that there is no maturity for peace on the Palestinian side; On the other hand, it is clear that the two societies that live in a state of hostility cannot coexist in the same entity, an idea that has become clear and strengthened in recent years, mainly by right-wing parties, and has even developed in the wake of the expansion of settlements in the West Bank over the past year.

Israel will have to make a conscious move accompanied by the greatest possible geographic separation from the Palestinians - without a commitment to establishing a state on the borders; At the same time - Israel's existential interests, most notably control of the Jordan Valley and the border between Gaza and Egypt, require it to have the ability to intervene in what is happening in the Palestinian field at every stage.

One of the components of the theory that collapsed on October 7 is that it is possible to advance normalization with the Arab world, without addressing the Palestinian issue.

Instead of this theory, a realistic discussion should be held that avoids slogans, such as “wipe out Hamas” and “return to Gush Katif”; Or illusions, such as “the Authority returning to control Gaza,” or “changing the awareness of the Palestinians.” Instead, a conscious long-term strategy must be formulated in the Palestinian context, with the understanding that it requires patience, continuous investment, and, above all, a readiness to make historic decisions.


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Hebrew Press| Controlling Gaza is too big a task for the Authority - but it still has a job the next day