In Shift, Israel Engaging Palestinian Authority on Governing Post-War Gaza

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Photo by Majdi Fathi/TPS on 13 March, 2024
Public • By Baruch Yedid/TPS • 13 March, 2024

 

Jerusalem, 13 March, 2024 (TPS) — Israel is holding talks with representatives of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah for the distribution of aid in the Gaza Strip and “semi-official” discussions on running Gaza after the war.

The move represents a marked shift in Israeli policy. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu previously vowed to not allow the PA to have a role in administering post-war Gaza.

The Press Service of Israel has learned that Israel is holding talks with the PA about accepting responsibility for delivering aid and checking in on its readiness to administer Gaza after the war.

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“Israel has already tried the Hamas option until it smashed in its face on the seventh of October and there is no other temporary option, but the PA’s return to Gaza,” a very senior official in the Palestinian Authority told TPS-IL.

“There is a common understanding between us and the representatives of the security establishment in Israel regarding the need for the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip, but as far as the Israeli government is concerned, the right-wing elements in it oppose any such plan,” he said.

High-ranking Israeli officials in Jerusalem confirmed to TPS-IL that the government has engaged the PA, inquiring if it will take over the management of aid distribution and checking on its readiness to govern Gaza. TPS-IL has learned that a very senior figure in the Israeli security system met with Palestinian and Arab leaders in an Arab country.

The development comes amidst the Hamas terror group’s continued hijacking of humanitarian aid deliveries.

Ramallah Talking to Gaza Clan Leaders

Majed al Faraj, head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service and a close associate of PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been mentioned in recent days as someone proposed by Israeli officials to run Gaza, at least temporarily. Faraj is also viewed as a potential successor to the 88-year-old Abbas.

“It is natural to bring up Faraj’s name, he is one of the figures who worked with us the most against Hamas,” Israeli opposition and former prime minister Yair Lapid told Israeli radio on Tuesday.

TPS-IL has also learned that Faraj was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and is already holding talks with the leaders of several Gaza clans to see if they can become a local force capable of securing aid convoys.

Faraj’s representative ordered the heads of clans in Rafah and the southern Gaza Strip to prepare for security and to assist with local weapons issues.

“We are now dealing with everything that is required to stop the bloodshed and the destruction in the Gaza Strip and before we meet this task, there is no reason to talk about the future of Gaza,” an associate of Faraj told TPS-IL.

Clans — a social unit of extended families — hold significant importance in Palestinian society, serving as networks of support in social, economic, and political spheres and mediating disputes between families. They are especially active in Gaza’s main urban centers.

Arab sources told TPS-IL that Israel also contacted Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh, who instructed his representative in Gaza, Iyad Nasser, to select five Palestinian transportation companies.

The five companies chosen are owned by associates of Nasser and have been vetted and approved by Israel. Trucks from these companies already begun transporting food throughout the Strip. A convoy of trucks from one of these companies was involved in a deadly stampede in Gaza City at the end of February.

Other Players

The Palestinian Authority isn’t the only player using aid to jockey for power.

Muhammad Dahlan, an exiled Fatah figure, also operates local security forces to protect the trucks that deliver aid from the United Arab Emirates, even though a large part of the aid purchased by the Emirates goes through companies and trucks from Egypt.

Dahlan, once a high-level figure within Fatah, was the Palestinian Authority’s strongman in Gaza when Hamas violently seized control of the Strip in 2007. As Dahlan regained influence within Fatah, he had a falling out with Abbas and was expelled from the party in 2011. He was later tried in absentia in Ramallah on charges of corruption, charges which Dahlan denies.

Since October 7, Dahlan has invested more than $400 million in Gaza projects such as water desalination stations, hospital treatment for burn victims, and deliveries of items for shelter and heat. Dahlan’s work has been working in alignment with an Emirati aid initiative.

And as TPS-IL recently reported, Iran is making in-roads into Gaza with aid.

Only 25% of Iranian aid has reached the Strip due to Israel’s refusal to allow the remaining aid to enter.

Reports indicate that Israel requested Egypt to prevent the transfer of Iranian aid, but street kitchens and food distribution stations operated by the Iranian Red Crescent can now be seen in the Gaza Strip.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.

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