Palestinians in occupied West Bank rebuke PA second-in-command on post-war Gaza comments

Palestinians in occupied West Bank rebuke PA second-in-command on post-war Gaza comments
PA officials have expressed "readiness" to govern Gaza after the war and criticised Hamas for the war's impact on the Palestinians.
5 min read
West Bank
21 December, 2023
PA's popularity has been at its lowest since 2021. [Qassam Muaddi/TNA]

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank were "unsurprised" by the latest declarations of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) second-in-command Hussein Al-Sheikh regarding what Gaza after the war would look like earlier this week, although he gave different explanations for his comments.

On Sunday, 17 December, Al-Sheikh, who has been seen as the strongest candidate to succeed the current PA's president Abbas, told the press that Hamas should make a "serious and honest assessment and reconsider all its policies and all its methods" after the current war by Israel ends.

Al-Sheikh also said, "There must be a single Palestinian government governing the Palestinian homeland", adding that the PA is ready to take over the administration of Gaza after the war.

"Al-Sheik knows that his comments are completely unpopular, especially at this moment when he is supposed to be condemning the occupation's genocide of our people in Gaza," Hadi, a 25-year-old lawyer in Ramallah, told The New Arab. "His problem is that he and the PA need to remain relevant, and that is their only way of doing so".

"In the current situation, the PA seems completely obsolete, incapable of playing any political role, and is viewed as such by Palestinians and by Israel, who only sees in the PA a security subcontractor and not even a partner", he added. "Al-Sheikh is trying to say that the PA is still a political partner, even if that means becoming even more unpopular in the eyes of Palestinians".

The PA's popularity has been plummeting in the occupied West Bank since its president, Mahmoud Abbas, called off elections that were scheduled for May 2021.

Shortly after the elections were cancelled, protests in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem broke out against Israeli attempts to drive Palestinian families from Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Israeli police's assaults on Palestinian worshipers at Al-Aqsa mosque.

Hamas then launched a barrage of rockets on Israel from Gaza, starting an 11-day escalation, which increased the group's popularity in the Palestinian territories.

In June, the Palestinian dissident and former independent candidate to the cancelled elections, Nizar Banat, died during his arrest by Palestinian security members in Hebron, which provoked widespread protests against the PA in the occupied West Bank.

"I believe that the PA knows it has become very inefficient in running the West Bank, and there is a general feeling that the US wants to reshuffle its leadership", Nidal, a 26-year-old postgraduate student of Marketing, told TNA.

"It seems that the current leadership of the PA will be changed after the war, and different candidates to succeed President Abbas have been debated for years", said Nidal.

"The most logical choice in light of the 7 October attacks and the current war would be of some figure that is less problematic, more acceptable by the Palestinian population, who could deal with Hamas too, and that is not Hussein Al-Sheikh, especially if Fatah's leader Marwan Barghouthi, who has many allies, is released from the occupation jails in an upcoming prisoner exchange deal", he said.

"I think that Al-Sheikh is trying to tell the US that he is still the strong man, the figure who can guarantee stability and have a strong hand on Hamas", he noted.

Last Friday, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan met with PA's Abbas in Ramallah, reportedly urging the 88-year-old Palestinian leader to "bring new blood" into the PA's leadership and hand over some of his powers to the office of the First Minister.

Later, Abbas said in an interview with Reuters that he was ready to "revamp the Palestinian Authority with new leaders and to hold elections".

"I think that Al-Sheikh's comments were deplorable, especially at the present moment", Hiba, a 30-year-old social worker in Ramallah, told TNA. "The only correct thing for a Palestinian leader to do at this moment is to press for the genocide in Gaza to stop. It's not time to discuss splitting the cake", she remarked.

"As for his comments on the accountability for the destruction in Gaza, he should have insisted on holding the occupation accountable, especially since it is also causing death and destruction in the West Bank, where he, Al-Sheikh, and the PA are in charge, she added".

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Since 7 October, Israeli forces and settlers have killed 303 Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli settlers have displaced 17 Palestinian rural communities in the occupied West Bank's 'Area C' and doubled attacks on Palestinians.

Last week, Israeli forces raided the refugee camp of Jenin for 34 hours, killing eight Palestinians, adding to the destruction of the camp's infrastructure, already suffering severe damage from previous raids, the most recent of which was only a week before.

In its ongoing offensive on Gaza, Israel has killed 19,000 Palestinians, including 8,000 children, since 7 October. The offensive has also disabled all but two hospitals in the Strip and destroyed around 60% of housing units.