Blinken to visit Israel on Friday, says 'revitalized' PA should govern Gaza after war
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority should retake control of Gaza if Israel succeeds in its goal of toppling Hamas, but that regional partners and international agencies could play an interim role.
The comments by Blinken during testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee marked the first time the Biden administration has publicly declared its desire for the PA to return to the Gaza Strip, after privately raising the idea with regional partners since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.
Hours after the hearing — which included repeated interruptions by several dozen of far-left protesters calling for a ceasefire — an Israeli official confirmed to The Times of Israel that Blinken will arrive in Tel Aviv on Friday for his second visit since the Hamas terror group launched its deadly shock assault over three weeks ago.
“At some point, what would make the most sense would be for an effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority to have governance and ultimately security responsibility for Gaza,” Blinken told the Senate hearing.
Hamas ousted the PA from Gaza in 2007 following bloody fighting, a year after winning a plurality of the vote in Palestinian legislative elections.
“Whether you can get there in one step is a big question that we have to look at. And if you can’t, then there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region,” Blinken said. “It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance.”
The top American diplomat said there cannot be a “reversion of the status quo with Hamas running Gaza.”
“We also can’t have — and the Israelis start with this proposition themselves — Israel running or controlling Gaza,” he said.
Returning the Palestinian Authority to Gaza appears highly difficult to implement, given the historically weak state of the PA. The governing body in the West Bank has been plagued by corruption, has lost face among Palestinians for cooperating with Israel and has seen international support shrink for rejecting peace offers and continuing to pay stipends to Palestinian security prisoners.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office insists that it is not currently holding formal talks regarding its “day-after” strategy and is solely focused on toppling Hamas. “All talk of decisions to hand over the Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority or any other party is a lie,” his office said in a statement on October 20.
Critics of Netanyahu have accused him of strengthening Hamas over the past 15 years in order to divide the Palestinian factions and weaken the more moderate PA, which recognizes Israel and supports a two-state solution.