Palestinian Authority remains responsible for Gaza, says Mahmoud Abbas

Discussions on post-war Gaza governance ‘gaining momentum’ among Arab countries

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has said the Palestinian Authority remains responsible for Gaza and is ready to assume its duties as soon as Israel’s offensive ends.

Mr Abbas said on Thursday that although Hamas had seized control of Gaza in 2007, “we have been and continue to be responsible for Gaza, and we will remain so”. He was speakingin an interview with the Saudi-owned, London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat.

On Monday, Mr Abbas held talks in Doha with Qatari ruler Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, who according to Asharq al-Awsat “is pushing for an internal Palestinian consensus on the day after the Gaza war”.

Qatar wants a Hamas-approved agreement for the return to Gaza of the Palestinian Authority, which has partial control over the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The newspaper’s sources said Hamas “suggests that the [Gaza] Strip [should] be governed by a consensus government with the mission of rebuilding Gaza and of holding subsequent general elections”.


Mr Abbas links the authority’s return to Gaza to “an international agreement and guarantees on a political path to establish a Palestinian state” as well as “guarantees on governance, control, security and reconstruction”, the newspaper said.

On the Washington-based Al Monitor website, Palestinian commentator Daoud Kuttab reported that discussions on post-war Gaza governance of Gaza “are gaining momentum”. He said Qatar, Hamas’s close Arab ally, appears to have convinced Hamas’s leaders of the need for a “unified technocratic government”.

Mr Kuttab said Mr Abbas favours Palestine Investment Fund head Mohammed Mustafa to head this government, while others propose ex-prime minister Salam Fayyad, a professor at Princeton University in the US, or former Fatah central committee member Nasser al-Kudwa, who is Yasser Arafat’s nephew.

Opinion polls show that Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences in Israeli prisons, would be the choice by far of most Palestinians. While he is likely to be one of the prisoners Hamas demands in a swap for Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the Hamas-led attack of October 7th, Israel has, so far, rejected this proposition.

Other commentators suggest Hamas’s price for agreeing to a technocratic government could be membership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation. Although Mr Abbas has for years refused to allow Hamas’s entry, he might be compelled to accept this to unify Palestinian ranks and prevent Hamas from sabotaging a deal. PLO membership would compel Hamas to reaffirm a 2017 commitment to end hostilities with Israel, recognise its existence within its original 1948 borders, and accept existing PLO agreements with Israel.

The Palestinians and their Qatari, Saudi, Emirati and Jordanian allies are working to prepare for a Biden administration plan to be announced in the coming weeks for the emergence of a Palestinian state. The Washington Post said the issues under discussion were Israel’s “withdrawal from many West Bank settlements, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, the rebuilding of Gaza” and the strip’s governance.

The Israeli liberal daily Haaretz reported that Israeli right-wing finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said he would demand the security cabinet “make a clear and unequivocal decision to oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state”. National security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said: “While we are in the government, there will not be a Palestinian state.” This is the position adopted by Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times