Insight: US wants shakeup of Palestinian Authority to run Gaza after Hamas

Insight: US wants shakeup of Palestinian Authority to run Gaza after Hamas

  • Abbas is watcher amid Gaza war, West Bank violence
  • U.S. officials see PA as the only choice to run post-war Gaza
  • US wants Abbas to revamp PA, bring in new blood, stop corruption Ending Israeli control must come first, Abbas says
  • Dec 16 (Reuters) – A succession of top U.S. officials have flown to the West Bank in recent weeks to meet with Mahmoud Abbas in the hope the 88-year-old – a spectator in the war between Israel and Hamas – can overhaul his unpopular Palestinian Authority enough to run Gaza after the conflict.
  • An architect of the 1993 Oslo peace accords with Israel that raised hopes of Palestinian statehood, Abbas has seen his legitimacy slowly undermined by Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, which he oversees. Many Palestinians now view his administration as corrupt, undemocratic and out of
  • But in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, President Joe Biden has made it clear that he wants to see a revitalized Palestinian Authority – which Abbas has run since 2005 – take charge in Gaza once the war is over, unifying its administration with the West Bank.
  • Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, met with Abbas on Friday, becoming the latest top U.S. official to urge him to implement rapid change. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters after meeting the Palestinian leader in late November that they discussed the need for changes to fight corruption, empower civil society and support a free press.
  • Three Palestinian and one top regional official briefed on the conversations said that Washington’s proposals behind closed doors would also involve Abbas ceding some of his control over the Authority.
  • Under the proposals that have been floated, Abbas could appoint a deputy, hand wider executive powers to his prime minister, and introduce new figures into the leadership of the organization, the Palestinian and regional sources said.
  • The White House did not provide answers to Reuters questions. The State Department said leadership choices were a question for the Palestinian people and did not expand on the steps needed to revitalize the Authority.
  • In an interview with Reuters at his office in Ramallah, Abbas said he was ready to revamp the Palestinian Authority with new leaders and to hold elections – which have been suspended since Hamas won the last vote in 2006 and pushed the PA out of Gaza – provided there was a binding international agreement that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
  • That has been something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right coalition have refused to accept.
  • “The problem is not changing (Palestinian) politicians and forming a new government, the problem is the policies of the Israeli government,” Abbas said in the interview last week, when asked about the U.S. plans.
  • While Abbas may accept that his long rule is nearing its end, he and other Palestinian leaders say the U.S., Israel’s key strategic partner, must press Netanyahu’s government to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state encompassing Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • According to a person in Washington familiar with the issue, Abbas has privately expressed openness to some U.S. proposals for reform of the PA, including bringing in “new blood” with technocratic skills and giving the prime minister’s office new executive powers.
  • While U.S. officials insist they had not suggested any names to Abbas, regional sources and diplomats say some in Washington and Israel support Hussein al-Sheikh – a senior PLO official – as a possible deputy and future successor.
  • Washington has called to Jordan, Egypt and Gulf states – which have some sway with the PA – to persuade Abbas to pursue institutional reforms with urgency to prepare for the “day after”, four U.S. sources said, including two administration officials. Officials in Jordan, Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates did not quickly respond to requests for comment.
  • Abbas has pledged several times to overhaul his administration in recent years and has little to show for it, so top U.S. officials will continue to push as they wait to see if he will follow through this time, the U.S. sources said.
  • U.S. officials know, however, that Abbas remains the only realistic Palestinian leadership figure for the time being, despite being unpopular among Palestinians and distrusted by Israel, which has denounced his failure to condemn Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.
  • Biden’s aides have quietly pushed Israeli leaders to drop their resistance to the PA, once it is revitalized, taking a major role in post-conflict Gaza, according to a senior U.S. administration official , who asked not to be named because of the confidential nature of the talks.
  • “There is no other show in town,” said another of the U.S. sources. In the short run, Israel needs to unblock more tax transfers to the PA, which it froze in the wake of Oct 7, so it can pay salaries, U.S. officials say.

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