"This [the PA being put in charge of Gaza] is primarily a U.S. project, because Israel’s strategy, of course, has been to keep the Palestinians divided and fragmented. And one reason that Hamas has been able to remain in power in the Gaza Strip all these years is because Israel — its distaste for Hamas notwithstanding — has preferred a situation in which the West Bank — or those parts of it under Palestinian administration — and the Gaza Strip are ruled by separate and rival entities, rather than by a unified entity.
And Netanyahu, for example, has spoken out very clearly against any return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip, and I think he speaks for the consensus of the Israeli leadership, and not just this leadership, on that issue. So, again, it’s primarily a U.S. project.
And this has a long history, the crux of which is basically that it is the U.S. and not the Palestinian people who will determine who represents them, who leads them, who rules them. It’s [that] the right of Palestinian representation belongs to Washington, and not the Palestinians.
The thing about the Palestinian Authority is that it is, in fact, a disintegrating entity. Israel, particularly since the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000, has systematically implemented measures to weaken the Palestinian Authority, to transform it, essentially, into a subcontractor for the Israeli occupation, whose main function is kind of as an adjunct to the Israeli military and intelligence services in the West Bank. This has been quite systematic and, again, it’s not something that has ever been substantively opposed by those who claim that the Palestinian Authority should be empowered so that it can participate in a political resolution of this conflict.
So, you have the Americans kind of actively supporting this Israeli policy, while saying that they want the PA to be strengthened, and you have the Europeans effectively doing the same. Every time there’s a new Israeli outrage, how does the European Union respond? Well, it launches yet another investigation of Palestinian elementary school textbooks. I mean, that’s kind of the extent of European opposition to Israeli policy towards the Palestinians, and its efforts to weaken the Palestinian authority.
So, you have a Palestinian Authority that can’t even impose its authority over those areas of the West Bank which are formally under its administration. And, in this crisis, what you’ve had — as is often the case when Israel tries to eradicate the Palestinian organization — Hamas’ stature has been skyrocketing while the PA is primarily present through its absence in the public consciousness. I mean, Mahmoud Abbas is kind of trotted out every other week to make a meaningless statement. The guy is completely AWOL.
Another thing is, Hamas is far from universally popular in the Gaza Strip. There’s actually been quite a bit of opposition towards its continued rule over the Gaza Strip over the years, perhaps even increasing in recent years. But, that notwithstanding, one thing virtually all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip agree upon is that they detest the Palestinian Authority.
So, opposition to Hamas does not translate into support for the Palestinian Authority, because the Palestinian Authority has played a very, very pernicious role in punishing the people of the Gaza Strip, by participating in the blockade, by doing nothing to … Because the Palestinian Authority — or, rather, Mahmoud Abbas in particular — sees not only Hamas as its enemy, as his enemy, but sees the entire Gaza Strip as an enemy, and has treated it as such over the years.
You have a former Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad — who also has a very low popularity ratings, but that’s a different question — he is one of several who I believe are on the record as saying that they received instructions from Mahmoud Abbas to further turn the screws on the Gaza Strip, and refused to do so.
And so, the Palestinian Authority is seen by the majority of Gazans as part of the problem — particularly Mahmoud Abbas — and not part of the solution. Now, the Americans, nevertheless … Again, we’re talking about the Washington echo chamber, so you can say anything provided it has no relationship to reality. They’re under this illusion that they are going to resuscitate the Palestinian Authority, perhaps even appoint a new leader in Washington’s image who will be lionized by the Palestinian people. That they will then bring him into the Gaza Strip on the back of an Israeli tank, and that he will be received with rice and flowers by every Palestinian in the Gaza Strip.
I mean, there’s only one problem here, putting aside all these political issues. If the PA can’t even administer territories under its jurisdiction in the West Bank, and if the U.S. can’t even challenge Israel’s systematic efforts over the years to weaken the Palestinian Authority, how are you going to get a strengthened PA that is actually going to rule the Gaza Strip?
And there’s one other point here, which is that all these scenarios have as a prerequisite the successful eradication of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. If Hamas remains, not even as a coherent movement, but retains residual military capabilities, these scenarios are all pie-in-the-sky and off the table..."
The rest of the interview is well worth reading.