In 2007, Israelis were gloating over the fighting between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Battle of Gaza.
Hundreds died in that battle between brothers. Hamas took control of the entire Gaza Strip and expelled members of Fatah to Ramallah. Israeli media circulated images of some of these individuals in their underwear on the streets after fleeing to the West Bank.
For Israel, this situation was advantageous. The Palestinians were preoccupied with internal strife, leading to the emergence of two conflicting Palestinian statelets, instead of them progressing toward the establishment of two separate states — a Palestinian state and an Israeli state. The unified Palestinian government collapsed and Hamas appointed its own judiciary and police force, as well as making Ismail Haniyeh prime minister.
In Ramallah, the PA appointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister. The Arab League and the EU supported the Ramallah government, while Iran provided funding to the Gaza group. This separation solidified and the vision of a Palestinian state gradually dissipated.
The lives of Palestinians in Gaza became a perpetual state of misery, as border crossings were closed and livelihoods disrupted. Tunnels were dug, allowing Iran to infiltrate the Gaza Strip and support its own groups. These groups were disciplined and prepared to serve Iran’s interests.
Despite the presence of Hamas, a power vacuum persisted, indirectly supported by Israel’s failure to help the legitimate PA regain control of Gaza. It is important to note that, five years prior to Hamas assuming control, Israel had undermined the capabilities of the emerging PA in Bethlehem and Ramallah instead of strengthening them.
Since 2007, Gaza has been trapped in a vacuum, with the exception of Hamas as a military organization, which competes with Palestinian Islamic Jihad but does not recognize it.
Vacuums, as seen in Libya, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan, pose a significant threat to stability. This threat extends beyond the people of Gaza and Israel, as many militants who have carried out armed operations against Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula have infiltrated from Gaza. Even within Gaza, Hamas no longer holds absolute power, as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have emerged.
Like any other nation, the Palestinians should be empowered to govern their regions. This necessitates support for the PA.
If Israel genuinely seeks stability, it must reconsider its policies that obstruct the realization of the Oslo Accords’ promise to establish a Palestinian state and reevaluate its interactions with the PA. True peace and stability can only be achieved with a legitimate Palestinian government that possesses real authority and is supported by the international community.
Amid the ongoing conflict, attention is focused on Hamas and Israel, while the PA remains on the sidelines. The truth is that the disruption and weakening of the Ramallah government have contributed to the growth of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank.
Since the separation, the PA has experienced a decline in its capabilities, functions and influence. The strangulation of the PA aims to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, while limiting its authority to areas significantly smaller than what was agreed upon in the Oslo Accords (the PA currently controls only 1,000 sq. km out of the more than 5,000 sq. km stipulated in the Oslo Accords).
Additionally, the Gaza Strip remains outside its jurisdiction. With the leadership of the PA undermined, it is unrealistic to expect them to extend their control and bear the responsibility. The security of Israel is intrinsically tied to the stability of the Palestinian territories. Like any other nation, the Palestinians should be empowered to govern their regions. This necessitates support for the PA, the development of its capabilities and the enhancement of its capacities over time.
Israel cannot adopt the approach taken by the Assad regime and forcibly deport 2.5 million Palestinians to Egypt, the only neighboring country. Nor can it tolerate the prolonged consequences of Gaza’s closure under the authority of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.