The Biden administration has stressed that the Palestinian Authority will have to be “revitalized” after the war in order for it to be capable of returning to govern Gaza
US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer is asked whether this means current PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is serving the 18th year of a four-year term, will have to step down in order for that revitalization to occur.
“Not necessarily,” Finer tells the Aspen Security Forum.
“There is no other game in town right now, in terms of an organized, institutionalized Palestinian political entity,” Finer stresses.
He notes that the PA comes under criticism from many Republicans in Congress and from Israeli officials. However, Finer points out that Ramallah is “cooperating very closely with the IDF” to maintain security in the West Bank, even though it is extremely unpopular internally, as Israel tightens its grip on the West Bank.
He acknowledges that the PA is not perfect and indicates that Palestinian elections are needed. This “is why we use terms like revamped and revitalized,” Finer says, while insisting that the PA is “going to be an essential part of any Palestinian future.”
For his part, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all but shut the door to a PA return to Gaza on Wednesday. “Those who educate their children in terrorism, finance terrorism and support the families of terrorists will not be allowed to rule Gaza after Hamas is eliminated,” he tweeted, referring to the PA’s welfare payments, which include stipends to Palestinian terror inmates and their families.
But Finer didn’t appear phased by Netanyahu’s comments.
“I would caution… against taking an initial pronouncement… as the definitive, final statement or else we would not be getting any humanitarian assistance into Gaza, any foreign passport holders out of Gaza or any pauses related to the negotiations of the hostages,” he says of successful US efforts to move the parties from initial rejectionist positions.
Moreover, Finer says he understands Netanyahu’s comments on the PA to mean he opposes the PA returning to Gaza “exactly as currently constituted.” The US opposes this as well, which is why it has called for Ramallah to be “revitalized.”
Still, he insists that “the PA is going to have to play an important role, not just in the West Bank, but ultimately in Gaza as well.”