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Mahmoud Abbas

Abbas is exploring a potentially controversial strategy, contemplating collaboration with “soft core” Hamas members in Gaza.

By Baruch Yedid, TPS

Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas arrived in Qatar for discussions on a Gaza ceasefire and efforts to rebuild the Strip afterward.

According to sources in his office, Abbas is not expected to meet Hamas leaders in Doha. But sources indicate, as reported by the Tazpit Press Service at the end of January, that he is considering forming a new technocratic government which includes “soft core” members of Hamas to administer and rebuild Gaza after the war.

Abbas believes that with Qatari mediation, Hamas will join the Palestine Liberation Organization.

TPS has learned that the candidate to head the new technocratic PA is Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, a Palestinian economist and chairman of the Palestine Investment Fund.

The US has been pressuring Abbas to reform the Palestinian Authority as a precursor to it taking responsibility for the civil adminstration and reconstruction of Gaza. The PA’s official position is that it does not want to return to Gaza or take responsibility for its reconstruction unless it is part of an agreement leading to statehood.

Sources in Ramallah told TPS that reforms being discussed include cutting down the PA’s bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, replacing diplomats representing the PA abroad, and initiating an internal self-investigation mechanism within the Palestinian Preventive Security.

However, nobody in Ramallah believes Abbas will see the reforms through. A November survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found that 90% of the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria wanted Abbas to resign, while 60% said the Palestinian Authority is ineffective and should be dissolved.

Moreover, 64% said they were opposed to the PA even participating in meetings with the US or other Arab states about Gaza’s post-war future. When asked who should run Gaza after the war, 60% said Hamas, 16% said a national unity government without Abbas, and 7% said the PA with Abbas.

Palestinians have not held national elections since 2005 and Abbas is now in the 19th year of what was supposed to be a four-year term. Since then, Abbas has cancelled several attempted elections amid Fatah-Hamas disagreements, most recently in 2021.

Israeli officials have vowed not to allow Hamas or the Palestinian Authority to return to power in Gaza. The PA ran Gaza until 2007, when the Iran-backed Hamas violently seized control of the Strip.

At least 1,200 people were killed and 240 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage in Hamas’s attacks on Israeli communities near the Gaza border on October 7. Of the remaining 134 hostages, Israel recently declared 31 of them dead.