Could the Palestinian Authority control Gaza?

Published date14 November 2023
AuthorAssaf Gilead
Publication titleGlobes (Rishon LeZion, Israel)
With the passing of the reform, the independence of a supreme court in the Palestinian Authority (the PA) was effectively abolished. Abbas deposed about 40 serving judges who were far from retirement age, mainly those who limited the powers of the executive authority. At the beginning of the year, Abbas appointed his former adviser Ali Mahana as president of the Supreme Court. Underlying the move was not only the veteran president's desire to reinforce his powers, and fortify his position but also his advanced age, and especially, fear of his expected successor. If the 87-year-old president suddenly passes away, according to the Palestinian constitution, his replacement would be the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Although the Council was suspended by a presidential emergency order in 2007, immediately after Hamas took over Gaza, and was finally disbanded in 2018, the last person to serve in the position is Hamas member Aziz Dweik, who was appointed in the 2006 general elections. A ruling by a judge could have handed the PA presidency to a Hamas member

"Until the reform, the judiciary was considered professional, apolitical and relatively independent," says Jonathan Byte a former intelligence officer in the Prime Minister's Office and now an analyst and commentator on the Middle East. "It gained credibility, and more than once showed the administration it had a backbone. It tried, and succeeded, to prevent Abu Mazen from appointing Ali Mahana as president of the Supreme Court in 2015, and stopped his attempt to lower the retirement age for judges from 70 to 60 to get rid of them. But as part of the reform, he succeeded in abolishing the seniority system, and took over the judicial selection committee. The reform passed without opposition, and the Palestinian Authority has long since become a one-man government without limits."

Throughout most of the years of Abbas's rule as president, the PA has become a shriveled, battered, corruption-ridden entity. But now, it has a role to fulfill. One day, assuming the war with Gaza will end with the destruction of Hamas' military and civilian infrastructure, and its leadership removed or killed, many view the PA as the natural heir. Reportedly, however, very few of those powers who will supposedly draft the post-Hamas map of the Middle East, see the PA going into Gaza in its current form.

This will require both a fundamental change of the governing structure in the Gaza Strip, and a reorganization of the PA. In fact, countries like the US, Egypt and Jordan see "the day after the war" as an opportunity to revive the two state concept, or at the very least, to re-establish the PA as the authority it was supposed to be, 30 years ago.

"A corrupt regime that is hates by its people "

"The Palestinian Authority is weak, but Abu Mazen was able to establish his rule in an absolute way," says Byte. "There's no parliament and no opposition, not even from within, from the Fatah movement. Marwan Barghouti, who has the highest chance of being elected to the position of PA president, is sitting in Israeli prison serving five life sentences. Mohammed Dahlan, who tried to establish a movement that would compete with Abu Mazen, had lawsuits filed against him, and he was forced to go into exile in the UAE. Jibril Rajoub was pushed out of the PLO inner circle and into a relatively marginal role in local sports. True journalism has been silenced or eliminated, as happened, for example, to journalist Nizar Banat - nicknamed the Palestinian Khashoggi - who was murdered in prison."

As of today, the PA is an almost irrelevant body in the Middle East. Israel's disregard for it, while choosing to strengthen Hamas's rule in the Gaza Strip, signing of the Abraham Accords without Palestinian involvement, alongside the corrupt and ineffective rule of Abbas in Judea and Samaria all greatly reduced popular support for the political body that controls the PA - Fatah - and increased Hamas' power in places like Jenin and Nablus. Young people who had lost faith in the old movements joined a third alternative: the "Arin al-Usud" (Lion's Den) youth movement, though this, in the meantime, has been greatly weakened by Israeli military intervention.

"The Palestinian Authority, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in six months, is an authoritarian-repressive regime, corrupt, and hated by its people," explains Dr. Michael Milshtein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University and a senior fellow at the Institute for Policy and Strategy at Reichman University. "The reason for its existence is that it is the main supplier of money and stability for the residents of Judea and Samaria. It is the largest employer in this region: a public sector of 30,000 security personnel and clerks. 64% of its budget is dependent on the Israeli economy, and comes from the money Israel levies on...

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