As happened in the aftermath of Israeli's military offensive labelled with huge irony as Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the Palestinian Authority's dithering over protecting Palestinians and actually doing nothing is approved of by Israel and the international community. When Israel agrees to a ceasefire and the question of rebuilding Gaza looms, the PA springs suddenly into existence as the entity that should play a governing role in Gaza. This is despite the fact that democratic elections have not been held in occupied Palestine since 2006, when the people voted for Hamas, and when Israel and the international community decided to place conditions upon political legitimacy by boycotting the electoral choice of the Palestinians.
In 2015, donors pledging financial aid to rebuild Gaza stated that they wanted the PA to play an active role in Gaza. This narrative was quickly adopted by UN officials, who reiterated on several occasions that they would rather deal with compliant Mahmoud Abbas than Hamas. A complicit Palestinian leadership, after all, would raise no objection to the mechanisms which do more to leave Gaza devastated. It has not been forgotten that Abbas himself imposed sanctions on Gaza in 2017.
Now Israel's defence minister has gone a step further. On Sunday, Benny Gantz said that the PA in Gaza should be strengthened in return for holding back further bombing of the enclave. Furthermore, he advocated that the PA should take a role in Gaza's reconstruction. "The most desirable change in my view is to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as much as possible, and not to let Hamas be the one that sets the agenda, not in the area of the Gaza Strip nor in Gaza itself," he declared.
Gantz did not clarify what Israel's concept of the "strengthening" of the PA actually means. However, having the PA return to Gaza without a legitimate mandate would alter the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle. This, clearly, is what Gantz and Israel are after. A look at the PA's Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh's address to the cabinet in Ramallah shows how dissociated from reality the leadership is. Even in the immediate aftermath of Israel's latest display of colonial aggression against Gaza, the PA is still rambling about "an international political initiative" based on international law, even though Israel continues to flout the law and even he must know that the international community is committed to allowing the settler-colonial state to act with impunity.
Gaza requires "urgent relief," said Shtayyeh, as well as rebuilding and economic incentives for people in the blockaded territory. Calling for an end to Israeli colonialism, which would ensure the lifting of the blockade on Gaza and allow Palestinians to have autonomy in rebuilding the enclave and their lives, is obviously not part of the PA agenda.
With Gantz urging a greater PA role in Gaza, and the PA spouting the same rhetoric that procrastinates when it comes to advocacy for Palestine's liberation, it is little wonder that Israel would prefer the status quo in the occupied West Bank to be replicated in the Gaza Strip. If nothing else, this would divert criticism of Israeli war crimes, which for now are synonymous with the bombing of Gaza, and the illusion of state building can be extended to another fragment of Palestinian territory, which Israel controls anyway due to the restrictions on movement imposed upon all Palestinians. With such complicity, it is pertinent to ask what Israel and the PA want from Gaza. After all, it is surely the PA's duty to protect the Palestinian people, rather than subjecting them and their land to yet more compromises and colonialism.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.