Israel may ease opposition to PA ruling post-war Gaza, Hanegbi implies in Arabic op-ed

In column on Saudi news site, national security adviser says Israel not interested in administering Strip; far-right lawmakers react angrily, say he doesn’t represent Israel

File: National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi speaks during a statement to the media at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv on October 14, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
File: National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi speaks during a statement to the media at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv on October 14, 2023. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israel’s government may be softening its resistance to having the Palestinian Authority control the Gaza Strip after the war, a column by National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi has signaled.

The piece, published Wednesday by the Saudi-owned Elaph news site, also said Israel is committed to rebuilding Gaza, together with Palestinians, the international community and private enterprise. It described the military campaign to topple Hamas as Israel liberating the Strip from the group’s reign of terror, which he said had left Gazan civilians “victim to a bloody and brutal terrorist organization.”

“Beyond ensuring the security of our citizens, which we will not compromise on, Israel has no interest in controlling civil affairs in Gaza, and there will need to be a moderate Palestinian governing body that enjoys broad support and legitimacy,” Hanegbi wrote. “It’s not for us to decide who this will be.”

Hanegbi noted the push by the international community for the PA to take over Gaza’s affairs, but said that would be impossible without reforms to the organization, specifically ending incitement to violence against Israel.

“In its current form, the PA finds this difficult to do, and it will require much work and the assistance of the international community and regional neighbors. We are ready for this effort,” he added.

The column marked a sharp shift from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s avowed refusal to consider PA rule an option for postwar Gaza, arguing that the PA and Hamas are largely the same.

Ironically, Israel’s apparent move toward the PA came as Ramallah has indicated greater willingness to ally with Hamas, with a top PA official Wednesday walking back comments in which he had criticized the terror group.

FILE – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on November 30, 2023 (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser, Pool)

Hanegbi’s comments broadly echoed Washington’s stance, though US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had focused on anti-corruption reforms the PA needed to undertake more than educational ones.

It was unclear what input Netanyahu had on the column, but Hanegbi is considered a close ally of the premier and would be unlikely to go behind his boss’s back.

Nonetheless, the column garnered some criticism in Israel from right-wing lawmakers on Thursday.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich upbraided Hanegbi for his comments, charging on X, “There are people here who are still living in October 6.”

“This position does not represent the position of the Israeli government, and the prime minister needs to call him to order. The Palestinian Authority is not the solution, it is a significant part of the problem,” he added.

Finance minister and head of the Religious Zionist party, Bezalel Smotrich leads a faction meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem, December 18, 2023. (Chaim Goldberg/ Flash90)

Smotrich has rejected any proposal that includes possibility of the Palestinian Authority ruling Gaza, warning Netanyahu earlier this week to “not test us” and “not present us with a fait accompli which we cannot be a part of,” while asserting that the prime minister’s previous policy of containing Hamas was responsible, in part, for the October 7 atrocities.

Also responding to Hanegbi’s column, MK Zvi Sukkot of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party wrote on X that the national security adviser had no right to publish ideas in the name of Israel’s government.

“We don’t have a drop of responsibility for Gazans ‘looking to the future with great hope.’ Rather, they should look to the future with fear of messing with us again,” Sukkot wrote on X. “We don’t owe anything to the ‘rebuilding of Gaza.’ Have we gone crazy? And also, a Palestinian Authority that educates toward tolerance and acceptance only exists in the minds of the very disturbed.”

War broke out in Gaza between Israel and Hamas on October 7, when the terror group sent some 3,000 terrorists across the border, killing some 1,200 people and abducting 240 — mostly civilians — amid horrific acts of brutality.

In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a wide-scale offensive aimed at destroying the group’s military and governance capabilities.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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