Washington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & Security
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Beyond conflict: Navigating the Israeli-Palestinian future after war

The warrior from the Qassam Brigades, wearing a mask, checks his AK-47 assault rifle before settling into a chair in President Mahmoud Abbas’s Gaza headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA). “Condoleezza Rice, hello. Now it’s your turn to handle me. The fighter quips, “There is no Abu Mazen any more,” in a fictitious conversation with the US secretary of state at the time. Fighters from Hamas’ armed wing surround him, taking self-portraits.

Rebuilding trust and relationships

In 2007, a division of Abbas’s Fatah party was recently defeated by Hamas in a battle for control of Gaza. Disappointed with the outcome of the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, Fatah launched an attack on Hamas, the winners. This implied a geographical as well as a political division. The PA largely governs the occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians are divided, while Hamas controls Gaza. Up until this point, when the political future of the Palestinian people seemed to be more unclear than ever, the situation has remained stagnant. Takeout of the armed group has been Israel’s declared goal for its ongoing ground invasion and airstrikes in the Gaza Strip in retribution for Hamas’s surprise attacks in southern Israel on October 7.

Political and diplomatic pathways

Over the previous 17 years, Israel has surrounded, starved, and attacked the Gaza Strip five times while Hamas has been in power. The Palestinian political future is extremely fragile in light of this most recent attack. Israel said on October 7 that it began an all-out attack on the Gaza Strip with the intention of completely dismantling Hamas. Izzat al-Rasheq, a member of Hamas’s Political Bureau, stated that among the reasons Hamas started its operations on October 7 were Israeli incursions, settler violence, and settlement expansions in the occupied West Bank. Al-Rasheq stated, “We warned the Israelis and the international community that this relentless pressure will result in an explosion, but they did not listen.” He also mentioned the incursions on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the thousands of Palestinians who were wrongfully detained, and the blockade on Gaza as contributing factors.

Socio economic development and infrastructure

In the unlikely event that Israel manages to destroy Hamas, the US has proposed that the PA assume control of the besieged enclave. Though Israel has not agreed thus far, how do the Palestinians feel about the PA? Is it possible to go back to Gaza? Is it possible to destroy Hamas? Their divergent stances on the Palestinian cause are the main source of contention between the two most powerful figures in Palestinian politics. According to Aboud Hamayel, a lecturer at Birzeit University in the West Bank, Hamas’s policy is to face Israel militarily, while Fatah and the PA whose current leadership is one and the same focus on cooperating with Israel. Hamayel mimicked the PA’s pessimistic tone when he said, “There’s nothing we can do.” The expert stated that a transactional relationship with Israel forms the basis of the PA’s support base in the West Bank. He emphasized, though, that in the West Bank, where the movement is more vociferous and diverse than in the PA, certain Fatah groups do participate in the violent conflict. In Gaza, where it is currently in opposition, Fatah is still in existence. Hamayel stated that its adherents are divided between their allegiance to Abbas and to Mohammed Dahlan, the former head of Fatah who has been living in exile in the United Arab Emirates for ten years.

Security and stability

The PA is well-known around the world and is supported by tax money. As a result, it oversees security within its borders, ostensibly relieving Israel of daily Palestinian living concerns, that is, until Israel launches raids and apprehends Palestinians who resist. Although there have been failed attempts over the years to bring Fatah and Hamas together, the party’s spokesperson stated that the group does wish to achieve unity. “We will come to an agreement on how to lead our cause, govern ourselves, and present it to the world through national dialogue,” Jamal Nazzal, a representative for Fatah and a member of the group’s parliamentary body, the Revolutionary Council, said. 

Cultural and religious diversity

As conversations about what will happen to Gaza after the conflict begin, the US has made it clear that it wants to see a united Palestinian entity, says Kenneth Katzman, senior fellow at the Soufan Center in New York. He was referring to agreements made between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) umbrella group in the 1990s when he declared that this organization would acknowledge Israel’s existence, rule both Gaza and the West Bank, and continue Oslo discussions with Israel. A two-state solution should be sought after the conflict, according to French-Palestinian political science specialist Rafe Jabari. However, he stated that a new agreement should be drafted to replace the Oslo Accords since the Palestinians were forced to make too many compromises during that process.


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