Israel, U.S. differ over Palestinian Authority’s future role in Gaza
Blinken said PA would be at center of post-Hamas Gaza, but Israeli officials say they need 'ultimate security control,' and warned that ‘PA wants to destroy’ Israel ‘in stages and politically’
JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
The Israeli government and Biden administration offered differing ideas for the Palestinian Authority’s role in a post-Hamas Gaza over the weekend, with Israel seeking “security control” and a senior Israeli official cautioning that the PA wants to “destroy” Israel, while Secretary of State Tony Blinken stressed Washington’s intent to center the PA in conversations about the future of the Palestinian enclave.
“No one has any illusions about the Palestinians,” the senior Israeli official told Jewish Insider. “The Palestinian Authority wants to destroy the Jewish state in stages and politically, and Hamas wants to do it violently and abruptly.”
Once Hamas is removed from Gaza, Israel must have the “ultimate security control” over the Strip, a diplomatic source told reporters at a briefing on Sunday.
Blinken visited Ramallah on Sunday as part of his shuttle diplomacy in the region to press for pauses in the fighting between Israel and Hamas for humanitarian aid, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said can only happen if the terrorist organization releases hostages.
“Palestinian voices have to be at the center” of shaping the future of Gaza, the West Bank, and “ultimately” a Palestinian state, Blinken said following the visit.
“The Palestinian Authority is the representative of those voices so it’s important that it play a leading role,” Blinken stated.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said after his hourlong meeting with Blinken that “the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the State of Palestine,” according to P.A. news agency WAFA.
However, he said, he would only “fully assume our responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.”
The senior Israeli official who spoke to JI referred to incitement against Jews and Israel in PA-sponsored media and textbooks, as well as the PA’s payments to terrorists and their families.”
A new study from the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se) showed that at least 14 teachers and staff members at schools run by UNRWA — the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants — celebrated the Oct. 7 massacre on social media. One UNRWA teacher living in Gaza called a video of a rocket strike in Israel a “splendid sight.” An UNRWA school’s Facebook page posted a video of a young boy praising Hamas “jihad warriors” and reading from an Islamic Education textbook inciting violence against Israel.
The over $300 million annual “martyrs’ fund,” as the Palestinian Authority calls it, has come to be known as “pay for slay” in Israeli and pro-Israel circles, referring to the monthly payments received by Palestinians who commit terror attacks against Israelis. The Taylor Force Act prohibits the U.S. from aiding the PA, with some exceptions, until the payments end, while Israel has a law to deduct and freeze an equivalent amount from the taxes and tariffs it collects for the PA.
Though the PA is controlled by Fatah, it does not discriminate by which terrorist organization attacks Israel, such that the families of Hamas members who were killed or arrested in the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel are set to receive monthly payments from Ramallah.
According to Lt. Col. (res) Maurice Hirsch, the director of the Initiative for Palestinian Authority Accountability and Reform in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the leading analyst of the PA’s “pay for slay” budget, the roughly 100 terrorists who took part in the massacre and were arrested received their first installment of the monthly payment —$365 per month — at the end of October, an amount that will increase the longer they are in prison. According to PA policy, the families of the 1,500 terrorists killed in the Western Negev received an initial $1,529 grant, followed by a $356 monthly stipend.
In total, in keeping with the Palestinian Authority’s policy, Ramallah likely paid $2,865,227 last week to terrorists who took part in murdering and kidnapping Israelis on Oct. 7, according to Hirsch.
Hirsch told JI that “PA involvement, direct and indirect, in the Oct. 7th massacre was extensive. The constant indoctrination and brainwashing of the Palestinians to hate Israel and Israelis, the constant demonization of Israel and Israelis, and the outright incitement of violence and terror are all integral parts of PA policy…topped off with the huge terror reward payments, and finally the absence of any PA condemnation.”
Hirsch also noted that terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a member organization of the PLO, and members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, part of Fatah, took part in the Oct. 7 attack.
After Oct. 7, Netanyahu instructed the IDF to prepare for a “reversal,” in case the Palestinian Authority decides to no longer cooperate with Israel, as well as for an Oct. 7-like scenario in the West Bank, in which thousands of terrorists would attempt to cross into settlements or towns near the Green Line, according to a diplomatic source.
Despite this, the senior Israeli official acknowledged that Jerusalem continues to work with Ramallah: “We recognize the limitations of the PA.…but they are trying to hold the lid down so things don’t boil over.”
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon, a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s Likud party and a member of the Knesset Subcommittee on Intelligence, said he is “not sure” the PA would have a role in Gaza after the war because it is “very weak.”
“I don’t see them managing the situation in Judea and Samaria today,” he said, referring to the West Bank. “In Jenin and other places, they are not capable of fighting terror, so it is very hard to see them doing anything now in Gaza.”
“Maybe after [the war] there will be a new reality and they would want to partner with a regional effort, but I don’t see them as capable of doing something major themselves,” Danon added.
Danon’s remarks are similar to what Blinken told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
An “effective and revitalized” PA should govern Gaza at some point, Blinken testified. “Whether you can get there in one step is a big question…If you can’t, then there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region. It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance.”
Though Abbas called Israel’s war against Hamas “genocidal,” Joe Truzman, research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal argued that it could be an opportunity for the PA president, who is in the 18th year of his rule, after having been elected to a four-year term in 2005.
“The prospect of Hamas’s destruction by Israel could spell a domestic reprieve for Abbas, who has seen his popularity in the West Bank sapped by Islamists and their armed allies,” Truzman said. “The question is whether he, or whoever follows him at the head of the PA, can parlay that into the power base needed to reassume control of a Hamas-dominated, war-ravaged Gaza.”
FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz, however, said that Abbas is part of a century-long tradition of “terrible leaders” of the Palestinians, “who have brought nothing but misery, corruption and destruction.”
Rather than empower Abbas, Dubowitz said, if the Biden administration wants the PA to return to Gaza, it should work with the Saudis and Emiratis to try to find his successor.