OpinionIsrael at War

The flawed notion of a ‘renewed Palestinian Authority’

There are two small problems with Washington's plan for a new Palestinian Authority taking over in Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Nov. 5, 2023. Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, Nov. 5, 2023. Photo by Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai
Nadav Shragai is a veteran Israeli journalist.

President Joe Biden and his envoys in Israel are failing in their attempts to transform and “renew” the Palestinian Authority.

The outlines of the American plan are quite clear: Israel will effectively halt the war and settle for a symbolic operation in Rafah. Only then, the Americans believe, will a prisoner exchange deal finally move forward. It will last four months. Afterward, members of the renewed P.A. will be introduced into Gaza, as a prelude to what will eventually become a Palestinian state in the West Bank as well. Israel is requested to cooperate with this plan, and the carrots the administration is dangling are twofold.

The first carrot is the expulsion of Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and his terrorist gang from Gaza—it’s still unclear how—which will provide Israel, to some extent, with the image of victory it desires.

The second carrot is normalization with Saudi Arabia. To be fair, it’s worth noting that Biden’s obsession with a Palestinian state—the cornerstone of his administration’s plan—is not merely a rescue operation for Biden’s flailing election campaign. Biden has held this belief for many years, going back to his time as a senator and tenure as vice president under President Barack Obama, who himself is still involved behind the scenes in the current administration’s policies.

However, there are two small problems with this plan. First, what suits the United States does not necessarily suit Israel. A Palestinian state, particularly now, is not only a security threat to Israel but also puts a nail in the coffin of Jews’ resettlement of their historical homeland, at least for the foreseeable future. It also directly rewards the perpetrators of the Oct. 7 massacre and could embolden Palestinians in Judea and Samaria to replicate such an attack.

Second, it is gradually becoming apparent even to the Biden administration (though it isn’t admitting it) that there is no “renewed” P.A. This is evident from the high number of incidents in which P.A. officers and security personnel are involved in terrorist activities or attacks on the Israel Defense Forces. It is no less evident from those appointed as district governors and ministerial staff in P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas’s new government, who are at best deeply rooted in the old establishment; at worst, they support terrorism.

Abbas’s new “technocratic government” has 23 ministers, down from 26 in the previous government led by Muhammad Shtayyeh. It includes ministers representing the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. Seven ministers are from Gaza but are currently based in Ramallah, 14 are from Judea and Samaria and two are from eastern Jerusalem.

The heroic prisoners

However, an examination conducted by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center revealed that at least four of the ministers are prominent members of the Fatah movement, including Interior Minister Ziad Hab al-Reeh. At least two of them—Hab al-Reeh himself and Minister of State for Emergency Relief Basil Nasr al-Kafarna—were previously detained by Israel. Two other problematic ministers highlighted by Palestinian Media Watch are the new minister for religious affairs, Mohammed Najm, and the new minister for women’s affairs, Mona al-Khalili.

It turns out that al-Khalili views the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s history prior to the Oct. 7 massacre—the 1978 Coastal Road massacre, in which 37 Israelis were murdered—as a “high-quality resistance operation.” Among the victims were 12 children and American photographer Gail Rubin.

Al-Khalili also believes that choosing Dalal Mughrabi—a revered figure in both the old and renewed P.A.—as the commander of this attack shows the esteem Fatah has for the role of women.

Just 10 days after Oct. 7, Itamar Marcus of PMW noted that “the organization headed by al-Khalili honored the murderous terrorists, while she herself referred to them as ‘heroic prisoners.’ This occurred as she sat behind honor banners displaying images of Ibrahim Hamed—responsible for, among other attacks, the Café Moment and Spiel club bombings that killed 53, Akram Hamed—who murdered two people, and Marwan Barghouti—involved in the killing of five people.”

Marcus also recounted how she denied Israel’s right to exist within any borders, referring to it as “a 75-year occupation”—essentially branding Israel’s existence since its founding as an occupation.

Najm is notorious for his role as an instigator during the Second Intifada, in which more than 1,100 Israelis were murdered. Among other things, he addressed Muslims and called out: “Oh servants of Allah, Oh you through whom Allah squeezes and torments the Jews.” Najm even stated that the Jews “are characterized by arrogance, conceit, haughtiness, unruly behavior, disloyalty and treachery,” and concluded, unsurprisingly, with “Allah turned them into apes and pigs,” quoting the relevant verse from the Koran.

The new minister of religious affairs also portrayed Israel during those years as an inherent evil that could not be reformed, destined only for torment and punishment. Has Najm changed since the Second Intifada? Has he expressed remorse or retracted his views of Jews in this way? There is no indication of that.

‘A sea of shahids’

On August 10, 2023, Abbas announced the retirement of eight out of the 11 district governors under his authority, appointed by him via presidential decree. In mid-March 2024, after the Oct. 7 massacre, the appointment process for eight new district governors was completed.

However, it turns out that this new group of eight is also composed of veteran Fatah members, “graduates” of the First Intifada, aged 40-60, some of whom were imprisoned in Israeli jails and some of whom still hold senior positions in Fatah. According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, six out of the eight (the governors of Hebron, Bethlehem, Jenin, Tulkarm, Qalqilya and Tubas) previously served as deputy district governors, and “most of the chosen governors are hostile to Israel and tend to refer to this in their statements.”

For example, the governor of Nablus, Maal Mahmoud Abu al-Rab, has often spoken out in recent years against the actions of Israeli security forces in Jenin and against harm to Palestinians. He even called for the emergence of a “real force that would deter Israel from its actions in Jenin.” The governor of Tubas, Ahmed al-Asaad, participated a few years ago in a rally marking the 56th anniversary of Fatah’s establishment. He said there that the movement was the pioneer of “sacrifice operations” and “martyr superstars.” Fatah, according to him, is a “sea of shahids,” its road to Jerusalem built on the sacrifices of those martyrs. A few days after the massacre, Abu a-Rab even organized a rally in support of Gaza and Abbas.

The governor of Jericho, Husain Jadallah Husain Hamayil, a doctor of education administration and a bachelor’s degree holder in psychology—formerly a Fatah spokesman—has frequently engaged in incitement and praise for martyrs on his Facebook page. Members of the NGO Regavim, who reviewed his posts there, even found understanding expressed for the Oct. 7 massacre.

Muhammad Taha Hassan Abu Alia, the governor of Bethlehem and formerly the Fatah secretary in Bethlehem, served four years in an Israeli prison in the 1980s due to his membership in the organization.

Hassam Abu Hamdah, the governor of the Qalqilya district, has often attacked Israel’s treatment of “Palestinian prisoners”—terrorists—in prisons.

While the governor of Hebron, Khaled Abd al-Aziz Taha Dudeen, has often spoken about the “suffering of Hebron’s residents from the ‘occupation'” and “attacks by settlers,” briefing many foreign diplomats on these issues.  

If the Americans deem this a “renewed” P.A., one wonders how they would characterize the current one. Their attempt to engage Abbas’s circle and collaboratively explore alternatives—replacing the monthly payments to murderous terrorists and the families of “shahids” with credit incentives or even start-up grants—is faltering. The money persists in flowing to the killers and their kin, embodying the perverse principle “the more you kill, the more you profit.” Akin to its predecessor, Abbas’s touted “technocratic government” proves utterly incapable of meeting the bare-minimum ask—condemning the abhorrent, Nazi-esque massacre of Oct. 7.

Abbas himself has added fuel to the fire in recent weeks, refusing to meet with Blinken during his recent visit to the country. This happened after the United States rejected outright a plan presented to it by the P.A. and four other Arab countries—Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Among the provisions of the plan are a complete halt to the war in Gaza and a full withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from the Strip one month after a ceasefire is declared, as well as immediate recognition of a Palestinian state—including its admission to the United Nations.

A senior Fatah member and the Iranians

Even the fact that alongside security cooperation with Israel, almost every week more and more Palestinian officers and security personnel are found to be involved in terrorism against Israel does little to dissuade the United States from trying to sell Israel on the idea of a “renewed” P.A.

Dozens of armed terrorists (according to a report by “The Arab World 301” on Telegram), identified with Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades and the Jundallah terror group recently participated in the funerals of the terrorists Omar al-Awfi, a P.A. officer killed by Israeli sniper fire in Tulkarm camp, and Tamer Faqha.

To this must be added the lists published by Fatah or the P.A., in which they take pride in their contribution to the roster of “shahids” fighting against Israel. The latest list contained over 80 such names. The most prominent recent attacks carried out by officers and police from the P.A. forces, who are trained and funded in part by the United States, include the shooting attack perpetrated by Abu Rida al-Sa’di in the Jordan Valley area (late March), in which three were wounded; the shooting attack at a junction in the Binyamin area near Jerusalem, carried out that same month by Barakat Mansour, formerly an officer in Abbas’ Presidential Guard (in this incident, which developed into a pursuit, one soldier was killed and six more were wounded); and the attack in which two people were murdered at the gas station near the Eli settlement the month prior, perpetrated by Muhammad Manasrah, a Palestinian police officer from the Kalandia camp near Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the flawed notion remains unchanged. The Israeli security forces are suppressing the fact that the P.A. and Fatah are not only partners assisting Israel in combating terrorism but also perpetrators and instigators of terrorism themselves. The recent attacks in the West Bank and the unceasing war the IDF is waging against terrorist organizations are again highlighting a disturbing fact: Distinguishing between Hamas’s terrorism and Fatah’s is becoming more difficult by the day. Fatah and its Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades are carrying out attacks and are involved in terrorism. Many senior Fatah officials, including the movement’s district secretaries, closely linked to the P.A., also support Fatah’s involvement in terrorism.

To this another disturbing fact can be added: A senior Fatah official—not from Hamas—is responsible, according to the Israel Security Agency, for smuggling advanced combat equipment from Iran into Judea and Samaria. His name is Munir Maqdah. He is a resident of Ain al-Hilweh in Lebanon and of Palestinian origin. Among the weapons recently seized, which Maqdah was involved in smuggling, were fragmentation charges, Iranian anti-tank mines, anti-tank missiles, 25 hand grenades, 16 RPGs and 50 pistols.  

Since “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” more than 120 members of the Palestinian security forces have been killed while attempting to carry out attacks, and in 2023-2024, over 150 attacks and attempted attacks can be attributed to Palestinian police officers and members of the P.A.s security apparatus. Even in terms of counterterrorism and arrests, the situation echoes a familiar tune: Not only Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives are being neutralized or arrested, but also hundreds of Fatah members.

More and more joint terrorist networks of rival groups such as Fatah, Hamas, PIJ and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine are being exposed, necessitating a reassessment of our relationship with the P.A. and its security forces.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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