Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :
Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt newspaper
TT

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : What About the Palestinian Authority?  

US President Joe Biden has proposed a three-phase initiative to end the war in Gaza that I have called the "parachute plan." Crucial details, such as what happens the day after in Gaza and who will govern it, have not been addressed by this plan.

One of the most notable omissions from the plan, as well as the ensuing debate, is the mention or reference to the Palestinian Authority. The plan does not mention a role for the PA now or in the future, and it seems to have been designed solely to achieve a ceasefire and failed to address the arrangements that will follow.

The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs' statement was alone in supplementing the plan with additional steps. On Monday, it issued a statement following the online meeting attended by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, Jordan, and Qatar to discuss President Biden's proposal. The foreign ministers emphasized "the importance of dealing seriously and positively with the US President’s proposal with the aim of agreeing on a deal that ensures a permanent ceasefire and the adequate delivery of aid to all parts of the Gaza Strip, in a manner that ends the suffering of the people of Gaza."

The ministers also emphasized "the need for the return of the displaced persons to their regions, and the complete withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from the Gaza Strip." Then the statement addressed what it considered the heart of the matter.

It stressed the need to " launch a reconstruction process within the framework of a comprehensive plan to implement the two-state solution in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions and with specific timeframes and binding guarantees." It also highlighted another very important issue.

The ministers underscored "the implementation of the two-state solution, which embodies an independent and sovereign Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel in peace and security, in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the international community, as means to achieve peace and stability for all in the region."

Here, in particular, Palestinian leadership is needed. Before that, we need Palestinian leadership capable of managing every transitional phase in Gaza, starting now, not when the three phases President Biden has proposed begin.

That requires involving the Palestinian Authority in the negotiations starting now, regardless of criticisms of the PA, its management style, or its figures. Indeed, some have an issue with the individuals who lead it, no one is worse than Netanyahu and Sinwar.

Thus, just as the five foreign ministers filled the gaps in the American proposal, the approach of "take it in and negotiate" must be continued. True, the ministers have accepted and supported the American proposal, but the focus now should be on emphasizing the role that the Palestinian Authority should play and ensuring that it takes part in all negotiations, starting with those over President Biden's proposal.

Supporting the PA is particularly crucial at this juncture, especially after the Iranian Supreme Leader urged Hamas not to accept a ceasefire and praised the October 7 operation.

The presence of the PA in all negotiations is very important. Whether the talks succeed or fall through, Israel and Hamas must understand that the PA should govern Gaza. The PA's inclusion would also help wake Hamas up and encourage it to "play politics" for once, by coming under the umbrella of the Palestinian Authority.