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Blinken seeks Palestinian governance reform for postwar Gaza

Blinken says he's secured commitments from multiple countries in the area to assist with rebuilding and governing Gaza after Israel's war with Hamas.
Blinken seeks Palestinian governance reform for postwar Gaza
Posted at 5:32 AM, Jan 10, 2024

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday to seek governance reforms as part of U.S. efforts to rally the region behind postwar plans for Gaza that also include concrete steps toward a Palestinian state.

Blinken says he has secured commitments from multiple countries in the region to assist with rebuilding and governing Gaza after Israel's war against Hamas, and that wider Israeli-Arab normalization is still possible, but only if there is "a pathway to a Palestinian state."

The approach faces serious obstacles. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government is adamantly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the autocratic, Western-backed Palestinian leadership, whose forces were driven from Gaza when Hamas took over in 2007, lacks legitimacy in the view of many Palestinians.

The war in Gaza is still raging with no end in sight, fueling a humanitarian catastrophe in the tiny coastal enclave. The fighting has also stoked escalating violence between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militants that has raised fears of a wider conflict.

On his fourth visit to the region since the war began three months ago, Blinken has met in recent days with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey. He says they are open to contributing to postwar plans in return for progress on creating a Palestinian state.

The Saudi Ambassador to the U.K. went even further on Tuesday, telling the BBC that the kingdom is still interested in a landmark normalization agreement with Israel, but that it must include “nothing less than an independent state of Palestine.”

"One doesn’t come without the other," Prince Khalid bin Bandar said.

After meeting with Netanyahu and other top Israeli officials on Tuesday, Blinken delivered a stark message, saying Israel must stop undercutting the Palestinians' ability to govern themselves with its expansion of settlements, home demolitions and evictions in the West Bank.

But he also said the Palestinian Authority “has a responsibility to reform itself, to improve its governance,” and that he would discuss that with the 88-year-old Abbas, who has not stood for elections since 2005 and lacks support among his own people.

The Palestinian Authority governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank under interim peace deals reached in the 1990s and cooperates with Israel on security matters. But it has been powerless to prevent the expansion of settlements in occupied territory it wants for a future state, and there have been no serious or substantive peace talks since Netanyahu returned to office in 2009.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has been unable to get Israel to make even relatively minor concessions to the Palestinians, like turning over all the tax revenue it collects on their behalf, or allowing the reopening of a U.S. Consulate to serve Palestinians in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Later Wednesday, Abbas was set to met with the leaders of Jordan and Egypt, two U.S. allies who have long served as mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in Jordan's Red Sea city of Aqaba.

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