After the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, won by the Hamas-backed Change and Reform Party, Palestinian Authority rule in Gaza was coming to an ignominious and chaotic end. Heavily armed families, some separated by their political affiliations with Hamas and Fatah, others by long-standing rivalries, were involved in armed clashes.
In cities like Khan Younis, barricades blocked neighborhoods which turned into improvised bastions. Corrupt, weak and incompetent, the Palestinian Authority in Gaza had authorized – even encouraged – the arming of rival clans. Within months, the PA would be ousted by Hamas after a period of intra-Palestinian violence.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly suggested to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that he consider the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza to play a key role in any “morning after” scenario if Hamas is ousted from the power.
In the years since Hamas took power in Gaza and brought its share of problems, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has done little to inspire confidence that it has meaningful solutions that it could bring to Gaza.
Sclerotic and lacking a democratic mandate, particularly in Gaza, many Palestinians consider that the only function of the PA in recent years is to maintain a minimum of stability in the West Bank at the request of Israel and its international supporters via its security forces. security.
Above all, Blinken’s comments reflect a deep myopia about the role played by the United States and Europe in the breakdown of Palestinian policy that followed the 2006 elections, including the withholding of aid and, later, its routing directly to Fatah.
As Nathan Brown points out in his analysis of Gaza’s potential future for the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, “Hamas is not particularly popular – it enjoys some enthusiastic support, of course, but only from ‘a minority. But asking Gazans who they support is partly beside the point: no Palestinian has had a say in choosing its leaders since 2006. A strange coincidence of interests between various international and domestic actors has formed to prevent meaningful elections.
He says the Palestinian Authority would anyway need Israel to first reverse its “long-standing policy of disconnecting Gaza from the West Bank and treating Gaza as a non-entity in political and governmental terms,” which which he considers unlikely.
Even if this were possible, the PA would still have to deal with its lack of popularity. “The PA has struggled to protect civilians from attacks by Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and its budgets have been strained as Israel withheld millions of dollars in tax revenue collected from Palestinians,” it said. Amy Mackinnon in an essay last week. for foreign policy.
It is unlikely, even if it wanted to, that the Palestinian Authority would have the capacity to govern Gaza.
Failed attempts to negotiate a meaningful rapprochement between Hamas and the PA over the years, while moot if the Hamas leadership were toppled, reflect broader divisions and tensions in Palestinian society that would be difficult to achieve. , if not impossible, to negotiate, especially if the We could see the PA return to power in Gaza aboard an Israeli tank.
Finally, there is the question of legitimacy. To be meaningful, a return of the Palestinian Authority would require elections that, once again, it might not win, even if the election conditions excluded those who support violence.
The Palestinian Authority’s rule over Gaza has ended in visible humiliation. Fatah members, some down to their underwear, fled the coastal strip to the West Bank, a metaphor for the collapse of the Palestinian Authority which continues to this day.