US, Arab states 'mull stripping Abbas of PA power' in plan for post-war Gaza

US, Arab states 'mull stripping Abbas of PA power' in plan for post-war Gaza
Arab and US officials hope overhauling the Palestinian Authority will make the idea of the PA administering post-war Gaza more palatable to Israel.
3 min read
27 January, 2024
Mahmoud Abbas (right) has led the Palestinian Authority for almost 20 years [Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/AFP via Getty]

Arab, Israeli, and US officials have reportedly discussed transferring power from Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, as part of secret talks on the future of war-ravaged Gaza.

The transfer of executive power from 88-year-old Abbas to a new prime minister is one of several contentious proposals raised in discussions between the senior officials of some ten countries, the New York Times reported Saturday.

The proposal, which US officials reportedly said would make the PA a more plausible option as administrators of Gaza once Israel ends its war on the Palestinian enclave, suggests Abbas retain a ceremonial role.

The New York Times report cited more than a dozen officials from seven countries and the Palestinian Authority.

Soon after Israel launched its war on Gaza on 7 October, Arab and Western officials began discussing the possibility of the PA governing the enclave - an idea Israel has repeatedly rejected.

Arab states and the US hope that an overhaul of the PA could make Israel more receptive to the idea, according to the report.

More than 26,000 people have been killed in the onslaught, which Israel claims has the aim of eradicating the current Gaza authority Hamas.

But the PA, led by Abbas for almost 20 years, has developed a reputation for corruption.

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Some Palestinians also accuse the body of collaborating with Israel, partly by cooperating with Israeli forces to shut down armed Palestinian factions based in the West Bank.

Among potential candidates for PA prime minister are Princeton professor and former premier head of government Salam Fayyad, or former Abbas ally and UN envoy Nasser al-Kidwa, according to the report.

But sources told the New York Times that Abbas is pushing for a candidate on whom he could exert more influence, such as longtime economic adviser Mohammad Mustafa.

Some officials have reportedly proposed an Arab peacekeeping force to help the new Palestinian prime minister 'keep order' in Gaza.

Israeli officials have rejected the idea, instead suggesting the creation of a multinational force under Israel’s oversight for the enclave.

However, US diplomats told the Israelis this month that Arab leaders oppose their idea, according to the report.

An overhaul of the PA is one of three 'tracks' being discussed at the meetings. The two other tracks are an Israeli hostage-Palestinian prisoner swap, like the one seen at the end of November, and the creation of a Palestinian state in exchange for Saudi normalisation with Israel.

The report said that most of the ideas floated at the meetings have been 'provisional, long shots or strongly opposed by some parties'.

The report did not name all of the countries involved in the talks.