PA rule in Gaza is the most realistic way forward

Palestinian Authority rule in Gaza is the best out of a string of not-so-great options. Regardless, the situation will be bleak for the foreseeable future.

PA rule in Gaza is the most realistic way forward

Once the war with Israel is over, who will run Gaza and how remains uncertain. Needless to say, politicians are working hard to find a way forward.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that his country will maintain security control over Gaza. His government is considering dividing Gaza into northern and southern regions by building what is known as Road No. 749 between the two.

In the meantime, he has repeatedly voiced his opposition to a Palestinian state, regardless of who controls the government, be it Fatah or Hamas.

As the conflict drags on, confidence in the military capabilities of Hamas and other Palestinian factions has waned. Hugely weakened, Hamas has recently expressed a willingness to join the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), signalling that it recognises a military solution is not the answer.

It remains unclear whether this is a strategic ploy or a genuine endorsement of the PLO and its position. But regardless, it is difficult to see how the group could be practically integrated.

Increasing isolation

When Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October, it made a unilateral decision without securing wider consensus from the Palestinian public. So, this could be an attempt to avoid political isolation.

Hamas’s rise to power as Gaza's de-facto authority came about due to internal political strife between Palestinians that led to the ousting of a Fatah-led administration in 2007.

Since 2015, Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar—the mastermind of the 7 October attacks—has been designated as a terrorist by the United States since 2015.

Hugely weakened, Hamas has recently expressed a willingness to join the PLO. This could be an attempt to avoid political isolation.

After 7 October, the European Union added him to their terrorist list.  This has heightened fears among the group's political leadership that they could be labelled next.

As further isolation looms for the group, Israel is returning to a strategy used in 1978 to prepare for the times that follow this latest war.

Back then, it aimed to distance Palestinians from the PLO through the Villages Leagues, engaging directly with local leaders who did not have political affiliations with Palestinian groups.

But now, many such influential families in Gaza are associated with organised crime, raising concerns that empowering them could further complicate the situation rather than stabilise it.

With broader powers, these families would manage aid distribution and refugee control, yet the effectiveness of this strategy is unlikely.

Unpopular strategy

Hamas has already warned such families against cooperating with Israel, threatening retaliation. On its part, the Palestinian Authority also opposes the plan, viewing it as undermining its own governance.

This strategy also conflicts with US commitments to resolve the Palestinian issue, and it would impose health and economic responsibilities on Israel as an occupying force, creating an unsustainable situation with long-term problems.

An alternative would be for the political wing of Hamas to sever connections with the military wing and move closer to the broader Muslim Brotherhood network, potentially joining the PLO.

Hamas's popularity comes from its military wing, not its political wing, which is increasingly viewed as inadequate in the eyes of many Palestinians. 

This scenario also appears highly unlikely, not least because Hamas's military wing continues to operate in Gaza. The organisation's popularity comes from its military wing, not its political wing, which is increasingly viewed as inadequate in the eyes of many Palestinians. 

A split between its political and military branches would likely, in effect, signal the end of Hamas. Furthermore, the organisation's ideological steadfastness has historically limited its politics, making such a major shift even more unlikely.

Pragmatic option

Another option is that Israel would boost its collaboration with the Palestinian Authority, which is already running the West Bank. This seems to be the most pragmatic solution to the question of who governs Gaza after the war. It is also the most viable option in the long term.

Read more: From World Bank to West Bank: Mohammad Mustafa, the new Palestinian PM

While Netanyahu's objections seem influenced by anger and a desire for revenge, there is a need for a way out of war and involving the PA in Gaza's government is the most realistic way to do this.

The PA—with its PLO and Fatah components—has the capability and backing in Gaza to effectively administer the region, unlike Hamas.

The consequences of war have arguably bolstered Fatah's appeal, given its emphasis on political engagement over military confrontation with Israel.

This aligns with international support for a two-state solution, making a PA administration in Gaza all the more feasible.

Putting a PA government in charge in Gaza will not be easy. Israel is likely to resist fully relinquishing control over Gaza, possibly seeking to retain control over strategic areas, such as northern Gaza, to facilitate future military operations.

Moreover, Gaza will remain susceptible to ongoing incursions, mirroring the situation in the Occupied West Bank. But while these problems remain, integrating the PA into Gaza when the guns are silent is the best available option.

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