Unlock Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, editor of the FT, picks her favorite stories in this weekly newsletter.
America’s top diplomat has provided Washington’s most detailed plan yet for Gaza’s post-war future, saying the enclave should be politically united with the West Bank under the administration of the Palestinian Authority.
Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, echoed the Biden administration’s position that Israel should not reoccupy Gaza after its war with Hamas, but left open the possibility that the Jewish state could play a role during a “transitional period”.
“It must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza united with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority,” Blinken said after a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Japan on Wednesday. “It must include a sustainable mechanism for reconstruction in Gaza and a path to Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in their own states with equal measures of security, freedom, opportunity and dignity.”
Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007, after it fought rival Palestinian faction Fatah in the Strip.
The PA, which is dominated by Fatah, administers parts of the West Bank, but it is weak and lacks credibility among many Palestinians. Arab officials have warned that it is unrealistic to expect the PA to easily move into Gaza and replace Hamas – if Israel succeeds in defeating the Islamist group, which is deeply embedded in Palestinian society.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Israel would have “overall security responsibility” in Gaza for an indefinite period.
Blinken said that from what he had heard from Israeli leaders, the Jewish state had no intention of reoccupying Gaza, home to 2.3 million people. Palestinians.
“The only question is, is there a transition period that might be necessary and what might be the mechanisms that you can put in place to ensure that there is security.”
Blinken said it was “key” that there was no reoccupation of Gaza after the war, no forced displacement of Palestinians, no use of the enclave as a platform for terrorism, no attempt to block or besiege Gaza and no reduction of its territory.
Blinken visited Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
He pressed Israel to accept humanitarian pauses to allow more aid to be delivered to Gaza and to help create the conditions to secure the release of more than 240 hostages held by Hamas.
Blinken suggested that Israel agreed to 12-hour pauses in fighting in an attempt to secure the release of civilian hostages after Netanyahu’s government rejected a demand by Hamas for a five-day ceasefire to allow fuel and other aid to Gaza, according to a person briefed on the discussions.
Under Blinken’s plan, the warring parties would agree to take certain steps toward the release of the hostages, and if met, the pause would be extended by another 12 hours, the person said.
Qatar, which is brokering talks, hopes to secure the release of 10 to 15 of the civilians held by Hamas if the proposal is accepted, the person said.
The war between Israel and Hamas erupted after the militant group launched a deadly attack on Israeli towns and military checkpoints bordering Gaza on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials, and seizing hostages. including civilians and soldiers.
The Israel-Hamas War: The 2-Minute Briefing
Stay informed with a summary of the latest events plus FT analysis, commentary and features
Israel has responded with a heavy bombardment of Gaza that has killed more than 10,500 people, according to Palestinian officials. Its forces are fighting inside Gaza City, the heart of Hamas’ political and military operations.
Washington has also tried to strengthen the security of its troops in the region. Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, announced on Wednesday that two US F-15 fighter jets had carried out “a self-defense strike” on a weapons depot in eastern Syria in response to attacks on US personnel in Iraq and Syria. It follows military strikes last month on two facilities in eastern Syria that the US identified as linked to Iran-backed militias.
The United States and its Arab allies would have to make a significant effort to revitalize the PA into a body with credibility among the Palestinian public, analysts said.
“It’s an interesting game,” former CIA officer Bruce Riedel said of Blinken’s goals. “But it doesn’t answer the question, ‘how do we get a Palestinian Authority that has the strength to govern and the legitimacy to govern?’ This primarily means a change of leadership.”
Palestinians are particularly frustrated with Abbas, 87, who is in the 18th year of what was meant to be a four-year term. Riedel said that while the U.S. could pressure Abbas to step aside, ultimately there must be a change in leadership from the Palestinians.