Postwar Gaza Deserves Better than the Palestinian Authority

Postwar Gaza Deserves Better than the Palestinian Authority

Following Hamas’ elimination, the best option for Gaza is a transitional period of self-rule supported by a multinational stabilization mission.


As the Israeli counter-offensive against Hamas in Gaza becomes a major ground campaign, more ideas are emerging on how to help the Gazans rebuild after this war. There are a number of dangerous ideas, and one that we think holds a better chance of success in the difficult situation that lies ahead.

One of those bad ideas is the return to Gaza of the Palestinian Authority (PA), the governmental body based in Ramallah in the West Bank. Washington think tanks often float restoring the PA’s authority as an appropriate solution for a post-Hamas Gaza. It is also one of the main options considered in a draft Israeli Foreign Ministry paper leaked to the press. Ideologically, returning the PA to Gaza is attractive to some because it presents a “political horizon,” Washington jargon for an eventual unitary Palestinian state of the West Bank and Gaza.


Planning postwar Gaza must be focused on actors who have the capacity to help Gaza reconstruct, not on ideological constructs or regional schemes, all of which have failed in the past. 

Atop the list of regional actors in the Middle East who lack the capacity to help Gaza sits the Palestinian Authority. Created by the Oslo Agreements between Israel and the PLO, the PA ruled Gaza from 1994 to 2006. It was so corrupt and so ineffective at governance that in 2006, the people of Gaza voted in favor of its opposition, Hamas, which was already then a designated terrorist organization by the United States and EU.

Since 2006, the PA has continued to govern the parts of the West Bank under direct Palestinian control. Here, too, it has lost control of much of the northern West Bank to Islamic Jihad and Hamas. It’s true that Israel shares some of the blame for the deterioration of the PA’s authority in the West Bank. But that isn’t a reason to now give the PA the very difficult mission of Gaza reconstruction, a task for which it would be destined for failure. 

Supporters of a PA return to Gaza admit that it is not ready for this mission. So they refer to a putative “reconfigured” or “reformed” PA taking over this mission. What is meant by reconfigured or reformed? Salam Fayyad, a former prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, writes that a reconfigured PA would incorporate both Hamas and Islamic Jihad to give it greater credibility among West Bank Palestinians. Let us assure the reader that Israel, having defeated Hamas in Gaza, would not sanction the return to Gaza of any entity that includes Hamas. 

Another unworkable idea, recently proposed by Dennis Ross, is turning over Gaza reconstruction to U.S. regional partners—Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. 

Again, the critical question is one of capacity. Have any of those countries shown the capacity to manage their own security or reconstruction challenges effectively? Think of Saudi Arabia’s war with its neighbor Yemen, Bahrain’s periodic internal instability sparked by a restive Shi’ite majority, or Morocco’s difficulties in giving its own population effective earthquake relief. Even if they would be willing to accept this mission (doubtful), wouldn’t it just be setting up our friends for failure?

The positive solution to postwar Gaza must rest on proven best practices and be modeled on structures that have worked elsewhere. These include giving Gaza a transitional period to self-rule in which a multinational mission helps the Gazans, a mission composed of countries that have shown the requisite capacity in other places (such as the NATO-led stabilization force in Bosnia or the multinational training of Palestinian police led by a U.S. Security Coordinator). Depending on the extent of Hamas’s destruction, this transitional, temporary mission would include very sizable armed forces capable of gendarmerie duties and reconstruction experts from countries with prior experience in postwar conflict zones.

The core problem is that the United States doesn’t want to take on leadership of such a mission. It would prefer to pass it off to someone else—Ramallah or Riyadh comes to mind—unintentionally setting them up for failure. 

We understand the reluctance. The U.S. government has a few other foreign policy crises to manage, including an active war in Ukraine. The salutary orientation of the Biden administration has been to avoid the interminable quagmires of the Middle East, especially ones that don’t affect core U.S. interests. Anyway, wasn’t Israel’s prime minister famous for boasting that Israel defends itself by itself?

Yet stabilizing Gaza is a core U.S. national interest, given longstanding U.S. alliances with both of Gaza’s neighbors, Israel and Egypt. Therefore, a temporary and transitional multinational mission would be best organized and led by the world’s indispensable power, the United States. It would include other countries with the demonstrated capacity to contribute to security and reconstruction effectively. The Middle East’s regional powers could provide funding and political support.

This is the best option for postwar Gaza. If carefully planned and, most importantly, carefully recruited, with a well-defined mission and easy-to-understand goals, including periodic assessments by contributing countries, it can avoid the usual quagmires and not become another Middle East distraction from U.S. interests elsewhere in Europe and East Asia. 

Once the transition is over, as defined in the mission’s mandate, Gazans would be free to choose whether or not they want to unite with the Palestinian Authority. That should be up to Gazans after they get the requisite international help. The solution is clear. It’s only a question of whether the U.S. government wants to meet this challenge with careful planning now or come in later to clean up a postwar disaster.

Robert Silverman, former President of the American Foreign Service Association, is a lecturer at Shalem College and President of the Inter Jewish Muslim Alliance (IJMA).

Eran Lerman, former Israeli Deputy National Security Advisor, is a lecturer at Shalem College and Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security.

Image: Shutterstock.