By Striving to Unify with Hamas, the Palestinian Authority Is Missing Yet Another Opportunity

February 23, 2024 | Michael Koplow
About the author: Michael Koplow is the policy director of the Israel Policy Forum and an analyst of Middle Eastern politics.

On Monday, Russia plans to host a meeting of the leaders of various Palestinian factions, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has urged Hamas to send a delegation. With Hamas facing military defeat, and the U.S. and its allies hoping the PA will govern Gaza when the war ends, this situation presents a golden opportunity for the PA to recover some of it much-diminished clout. It seems committed instead, as Michael Koplow puts it, to trying to “turn lemonade back into lemons.”

If PA officials believe that their current moment of resurgence will last even ten seconds beyond a grand national-unity announcement with an unreformed and recalcitrant Hamas, they are badly misreading the room. That goes double for getting Israelis on board with any PA role anywhere.

The way forward must be to make Hamas less popular rather than rehabilitate it. There is a golden opportunity for [the PA president Mahmoud] Abbas and company to isolate Hamas while it is in organizational disarray, and in so doing build trust with every regional actor not named Iran, Qatar, or Turkey. But that requires a PA that will lead, that will tell Palestinians hard truths, that isn’t afraid to adapt to changed circumstances rather than spout the same slogans and positions and take the same approaches that it has nearly uninterrupted for three decades.

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