The Palestinian Authority Lost Its People’s Trust

At a press conference last Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about what the U.S. would like to see in the aftermath of the defeat of Hamas, which included the Palestinian Authority (PA) resuming responsibility for the Gaza Strip. Two days later, Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to say that he opposed ceding the Strip to the PA. Ghaith al-Omari, who has served as an official in the PA, argues that one problem with such a scenario is that the Palestinian people have lost faith in the government in Ramallah:

Failed diplomacy certainly injured the PA, but it was only part of the story. For the rest, the PA had itself to blame. . . . Government jobs were, [under its rule], political favors to be doled out to supporters; public funds, many of them from international aid, were mere means toward the enrichment of officials. Efficiency, responsiveness to the public, and the provision of services were all an afterthought. Palestinians became disenchanted with the PA and with government itself.

Today, a staggering 87 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza believe that the PA is corrupt, 78 percent want Abbas to resign, and 62 percent believe that the PA is a liability. . . . In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Hamas’s initial popularity has evaporated—today 72 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza believe that Hamas is corrupt—but the group maintains its power through fear and brutality, not the consent of the governed.

The PA’s response to the Hamas attack has underlined its irrelevance and its insecure standing among its people. . . . Under different circumstances—if the PA were a more effective, clean government, better trusted by its people—one might imagine it returning to Gaza when this war ends and leading the process of reconstruction and recovery. But Palestinians have no confidence that the PA has their interests at heart; the international community does not trust it to administer funds on the scale of those that will be needed for reconstruction; and the PA anyway lacks the institutional infrastructure to do the job.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian public opinion

 

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security