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Revitalized PA: Internationalized, Upgraded & De-radicalized

Policy Paper

Executive Summary


Biden speaks of a revitalized Palestinian Authority (PA) ‘the day after’, while Netanyahu does not dismiss such a possibility. This option offers an optimal response to the tension between Israel's security needs and its pursuit of international legitimacy to its conduct vis-a-vis Gaza. It might also be a solution that garners widespread public support in Israel.


The transfer of control of the Gaza Strip to the PA should occur only if it undergoes significant reform and after ensuring the security interests of the State of Israel are met. 


The revitalized PA we are imagining embodies a big trade-off: On the one hand, some of its attributes of statehood that conflict with Israeli national security will be limited through their 'internationalization' or international strict supervision. These elements include law and constitution, educational content, budget control, and membership in international forums. Additionally, there will be an Israeli monopoly on military power in the region.


On the other hand, simultaneously, the PA’s powers and responsibilities will expand in areas that do not undermine national security. This expansion will encompass territorial enlargement of Areas A (including the entire Gaza Strip), more economic independence, and regulation of various matters in the shared space.


Israel should delay the transfer of control of the Gaza Strip until after Abu Mazen's tenure, actively encouraging his early resignation to facilitate an orderly power transition to a leadership committed to the principles of the revitalized PA. Israel should switch its political interlocutor from the PLO to the PA. Ultimately, the revitalized PA should be a 'political scaffold,' namely, serve as a platform that potentially leads to a novel type of long-term permanent status arrangement.


Introduction


The US continues to seek clarity from Israel in regards to its plan for Gaza following the potential fall of Hamas. President Biden advocates for a "revitalized PA" to ultimately govern both Gaza and the West Bank. While Jerusalem shows limited enthusiasm, Prime Minister Netanyahu has not dismissed the idea outright, noting that the current PA is incapable of governing Gaza in place of Hamas.


The conduct of the PA has been ‘problematic’. Notably, some of its leaders have shown support for the Hamas pogrom on October 7th, and the PA has been involved in financially supporting families of terrorists. Additionally, there are concerns about incitement within the education system, the past involvement of some of its police forces in terror, and the diplomatic assault of the PA against Israel in international forums. It is also important to recall Hamas's victory in the 2006 democratic elections within the PA. Presently, the PA's standing among Palestinians is waning due to corruption among its leaders. Furthermore, the PA is on the cusp of a significant transformation with the impending departure of Abu Mazen, leading to uncertainties about its future leadership.


This document seeks to define what constitutes a "revitalized PA" and explores why, despite its current shortcomings, it might represent the optimal option in the post-Hamas era. 


Why the PA?


A key dilemma in planning for the post-Hamas era in Gaza centers around balancing Israel's security needs with the quest for international legitimacy. From an Israeli perspective, ensuring security often necessitates an increased on-ground presence in Gaza. However, enhancing international legitimacy typically requires reducing such presence. This dichotomy presents a significant challenge.


If security were Israel's sole concern, a permanent military presence in Gaza would likely be the preferred choice. However, advancing an agenda based solely on security, without regional partners and lacking endorsement from the US, is not viable. Consequently, proposals for renewed Israeli settlement in Gaza or a sustained high-profile military presence are largely seen as politically unfeasible.


The PA, established through an agreement between Israel and the PLO under international auspices, emerges as a pragmatic and favored option for promoting an internationally supported political agenda. The greater the transfer of powers and authorities to the PA, and the more it makes re-establishing the Israeli Civil Administration unnecessary, the more legitimacy Israeli actions will have the day after, and the burden of caring for the welfare of more than two million Palestinians in the Strip will be reduced.

Despite its flaws, the PA plays a crucial political and security role. For years, Hamas has labeled the PA as a facilitator of Israel's security objectives. However, the PA is fundamentally different from Hamas. 


While Hamas' raison d'être is the struggle to destroy Israel, the PA, a product of the Oslo Accords, was established to govern and serve the Palestinian populace. The PA's power and legitimacy stem from its territorial administration and relationship with Palestinian residents, unlike Hamas which relies on armed struggle. As a result, the PA is unlikely to launch a surprise, comprehensive military attack on Israel in the same manner Hamas did.

National Polarization in Israel and a Revitalized PA

 

In this document, we introduce another crucial consideration for the day after scenario in Gaza: the issue of national polarization. Prior to the conflict, Israel teetered on the brink of internal strife. The conflict, however, forged an unusual unity against a common enemy. Across the political spectrum, there's a consensus that the existing Israeli mindset in regards to Hamas, has failed, but the nature of this failure is debated:

 

  • The Left, largely, argues that the Netanyahu’s policy to strengthen Hamas at the expense of the PA led to the events of October 7th.

  • The Right contends that the mindset that failed, is the idea of a Palestinian sovereignty, an idea that was created in Oslo.


The issue of the day after may become the breaking point around which social polarization re-coalesces. The ideological and political controversy in Israeli society still simmers beneath the surface, sometimes rearing its head, and may erupt like lava the moment Israel is required to delineate the military campaign's political objective.


Therefore, the agenda for the day after must have widespread support. The goal should be to minimally challenge social cohesion. Israel's political structure, already strained by recent social divisions, lacks the resilience to withstand highly complex political challenges. 


The considerations we have outlined converge on a single viable option: transferring control to the PA.This transfer should occur only after the PA has undergone necessary reforms that align with Israel's interests & only once Israel's security needs are thoroughly addressed. The question is not whether a revitalized PA is necessary, but rather how it should be reformed. 

 

Principles of a Revitalized PA


PLO OFFICERES WITH FLOWRS

A PA that does not compromise Israel's security, garners international legitimacy, and minimally disrupts Israel's political equilibrium will optimally address the aforementioned considerations. What, then, would a revitalized PA entail, and under what conditions could it address Israel's concerns?


We suggest the ‘big trade-off’: In the revitalized PA, some of the attributes of statehood that clash with Israel's national security will be limited, on the one hand, but on the other hand, its powers and authorities will be expanded in dimensions that do not. 


1. Sovereignty Limitations: attributes of statehood that will be limited through their internationalization or international supervision include:

  • Law and Constitution: International supervision on the Palestinian legal system to prevent its constitution from promoting the ethos of Palestinian struggle, and to restrict entities like Hamas from participating in Palestinian elections.

  • Education: De-radicalization of the Palestinian education system through international oversight, targeting incitement and militant indoctrination.

  • Budget control: Establishing a mechanism to prevent funds distributionto families of individuals involved in terror.

  • International Status: Limiting the PA's international presence to prevent conflicts with Israel in global forums, such as in the Hague International Court of Justice.

  • Security: Israel will maintain a monopoly on military power in the region, necessitating the disarmament of the PA from military weaponry and strict monitoring of Gaza's entry and exit points. The PA will be limited to police armaments.


2. Upgrading the PA:

  • Territorial authority expansion. The PA will receive Gaza as a full Area A, and Israel will be able to expand the PA's security authorities in Area A territories in the West Bank to additional areas.

  • Economic upgrade. The infrastructure for economic relations between Israel and the PA can be reexamined, so that the PA can sign free trade agreements, issue an independent currency, establish an independent customs regime as well as conduct fiscal and monetary policy (see Reut Institute document regarding roadmap).

  • Settling issues in the shared space. Israel will negotiate with the PA on a variety of issues that are not properly regulated, including water, economy, natural resources and environment.


3. Waiting for the day after Abu Mazen. PA President Abu Mazen is in the late stages of his political (and biological) career. Israel will not be able to afford to hand over the keys to Gaza when there is basic uncertainty about the day after Abu Mazen. Therefore, Abu Mazen should be encouraged to retire and transfer power in an orderly manner to new leadership that will be committed to the principles of the revitalized PA (international support for the PA will be conditioned on this). 

 

4. Switch the political address from the PLO to the PA.  Israel should consider formally declaring that its sole address for anything related to Israeli-Palestinian relations in the West Bank and Gaza ]’is the PA. The reasons for this are varied and include, among others, the concern that Hamas, even after the blow it will suffer, will take over the PLO. In the current reality, it is appropriate to deal with the PA also in order to limit the political agenda to issues that directly and exclusively concern the PA's residents. 

 

5. The renewed PA could be a 'political scaffolding' for new types of solutions for the permanent status agreement. October 7th is a watershed, and may create an opportunity to generate long-term policy alternatives that until recently were not realistic. However, the urgent need to present a day after agenda clashes with the opportunity to generate new political solutions for the longer run. The process of creating new conceptual frameworks and turning them into a sustainable political agenda is a long one. The existence of the revitalized PA will leave room for flexibility for a range of permanent solutions in the long term, which may include a confederation with Egypt, or another territorial deal with it that will increase the area of the Palestinian entity in the Rafah Corridor in a way that will allow refugee settlement in Sinai.

 

6. The potential significant role that the Abraham Accords countries can play in such an arrangement must be taken into account.

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