The Palestinian perspective on alternatives for managing the Gaza Strip “the day after”

Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh's X account, February 27, 2024)

Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh's X account, February 27, 2024)

Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh's X account, February 27, 2024)

Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh's X account, February 27, 2024)

A Hamas delegation led by Musa Abu Marzouq meets in Moscow with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov (Palinfo, January 19, 2024)

A Hamas delegation led by Musa Abu Marzouq meets in Moscow with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov (Palinfo, January 19, 2024)

Muhammad Dahlan (Watan Agency, February 14, 2024)

Muhammad Dahlan (Watan Agency, February 14, 2024)

Overview[1]
  • The Gaza Strip is currently preoccupied with ways to deliver humanitarian aid to local residents, while the Palestinian and Arab media are preoccupied with the issue of “the day after” in the Gaza Strip, and several possibilities have been mentioned regarding its future management.
    • The Palestinian Authority (PA) regards itself as the Gaza Strip’s best administrator. It views the war in the Gaza Strip as a window of opportunity for regaining control of the Strip, and as another step towards establishing an independent Palestinian state. PA officials deliberate with international and Arab parties and reiterate that the PA is the official, exclusive representative of the Palestinians, and oppose Israel’s plans to detach the Gaza Strip from the PA territories. To further the goal, the PA’s governing institutions are being reorganized.
    • Hamas regards itself as being central to the administration of the Strip even “the day after.” The Hamas leadership claims the solution will be internal and Palestinian and voices strong opposition to international intervention and the talk about establishing a national consensus government and integrating Hamas into the PLO.
    • The idea of turning the Gaza Strip over to the heads of the clans and large families was first raised by Israel. The heads of the clans proved themselves to be a force in the Gaza Strip and successfully transferred part of the humanitarian aid to Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip. However, a significant number of clans are affiliated with Hamas and other terrorist groups.
    • Muhammad Dahlan, the ousted senior Fatah figure, who currently resides in Abu Dhabi in the UAE and is a senior advisor to the UAE president, regards the situation as an opportunity to return to political activity and formulate a plan for the reconstruction of the Strip, and to that end could mobilize Arab capital and the security of Arab forces.
    • Other possibilities: In the meantime, additional solutions have been proposed, such as the establishment of an interim regime, led by the United States and with the participation of regional countries: Egypt, Jordan, UAE and Saudi Arabia which will rule the Strip for several years until power is handed over to the PA. There is also the possibility of deploying an Arab peacekeeping force after the withdrawal of the IDF forces, which does not rule out the participation of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) representatives in the governing body.
  • At the moment there is no solution agreed upon by everyone and all the proposals have shortcomings.
  • In any solution “for the day after,” Hamas, which is popular with the majority of the Gazans, will not disappear, and will work to influence events and become a part of any future administration.
Further Information
The Palestinian Authority (PA)
  • The PA regards itself as the Hamas administration’s natural successor and is promoting that view to Arab and international parties. PA figures reiterate the claim that the PA and PLO are the official representatives of the Palestinians, and as such are the most suitable for managing the Gaza Strip after the war. The PA, which has always viewed the Gaza Strip as an integral part of a future Palestinian state, opposes the Israeli government’s plan to isolate the Gaza Strip, considering it a move planned by Israel to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and continue the “Israeli occupation.” To gain acceptance for the idea, Hussein al-Sheikh, secretary of the PLO’s Executive Committee, recently held a round of meetings in the Gulf countries, which included the Arab League, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
  • Meanwhile, the PA has begun reorganizing its government and governmental institutions, a move designed mainly to please the United States and the Europeans. Mahmoud Abbas dissolved the government and appointed Dr. Muhammad Mustafa as prime minister, whom he instructed to form a government of “experts.” He also appointed new PA district governors,[2] and a new commander and deputy commander for the Palestinian  preventive security service.[3]
 Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh's X account, February 27, 2024)    Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh's X account, February 27, 2024)
Hussein al-Sheikh and Shukri Bshara, finance minister, meet with an international delegation (Hussein al-Sheikh’s X account, February 27, 2024)
  • Muhammad Shtayyeh, outgoing PA prime minister, said they rejected any foreign presence’s imposing itself on the Gaza Strip “the day after,” no matter what nationality. He said some people wanted autonomy for the Gaza Strip and others were working to bring in private security companies, and both, he said, meant violating the will of the Palestinians (Wafa, March 18, 2024).
  • Fatah spokesman Hussein Hamail called on Hamas, which rejects a PA presence in the Gaza Strip, to put the national Palestinian interest above the Hamas movement’s interest and asked for the PA to be given an opportunity to provide the Gazans with humanitarian aid. He claimed the international community accepted the PA’s presence in the Gaza Strip (al-Arabiya TV, March 15, 2024).
  • To further reinforce a PA foothold in the Strip, Majed Faraj, the head of Palestinian general intelligence, was mentioned as a candidate for managing the Strip. Faraj, 62 years old, is considered a close affiliate of Mahmoud Abbas and one of the most powerful people in the PA. Palestinian “security sources” reported that he was currently leading an effort to build a PA security force which would reach the Gaza Strip and take control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing from the Hamas government. According to the report, to that end 500 members of the “presidential guard” will be sent to the Strip to secure the operators of the Rafah Crossing. In addition, a source in the Palestinian general intelligence reported that according to the plan, between 5,000 and 7,000 security force operatives, current or retired, will be sent to assist in the distribution of humanitarian aid and food to all residents of the Gaza Strip (Arabic Post, March 21, 2024).
A Palestinian cartoon condemning the airlift of Majed Faraj into the General Assembly as administrator. The Arabic reads, "The attempts of the occupation [Israel] to find a replacement to administer the Gaza Strip!" (Arab 21, March 13, 2024)     Majed Faraj (Arabic Post, March 21, 2024).
Right: Majed Faraj (Arabic Post, March 21, 2024). Left: a Palestinian cartoon condemning the airlift of Majed Faraj into the General Assembly as administrator. The Arabic reads, “The attempts of the occupation [Israel] to find a replacement to administer the Gaza Strip!” (Arab 21, March 13, 2024)
Hamas
  • Despite the war and its loss of power, Hamas still regards itself as a central factor in the management and control of the Strip “the day after,” and to that end senior Hamas members have been holding meetings with international officials. For example, that was discussed at a recent meeting in Moscow attended by senior Hamas members and senior officials of the Russian foreign ministry and a senior official of the Chinese foreign ministry. Senior Hamas members openly state that Hamas will not disappear from the Gaza Strip, “the day after” is an internal Palestinian matter and they will not allow any foreign entity to enter and manage the Strip.
 A Hamas delegation led by Musa Abu Marzouq meets in Moscow with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov (Palinfo, January 19, 2024)
A Hamas delegation led by Musa Abu Marzouq meets in Moscow with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Michael Bogdanov (Palinfo, January 19, 2024)
  • For the most part Hamas talks about a Palestinian solution in which Hamas is integrated into a government of national consensus:
    • Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, related to the issue of “the day after” in a speech, stating that Hamas was following the internal Palestinian situation and was more interested than ever in the unity of the Palestinian people and in rebuilding its political elements, based on true, sound foundations. He claimed the movement’s position was based on partnership, democracy and elections, adding that they wanted an arrangement on three levels: renewing the national source of authority within the PLO through elections for the Palestinian National Council; establishing a government of national consensus with defined tasks and for a limited period of time until general elections for the Legislative Council, the Presidency and the Palestinian National Council could be held; and agreeing on a political plan for the Palestinian people (Al-Araby TV YouTube channel, channel, March 10, 2024).
    • Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas member, stated that “the day after” in the Gaza Strip would be Palestinian, and not Israeli or of the agents chosen by Israel to manage the Strip (al-Jadeed TV YouTube channel, March 13, 2024). On another occasion, he called the management of the Palestinian issue an “internal Palestinian national decision,” adding that the Palestinians would not accept any leadership that arrived in an Israeli or American tank, or sponsored by the tank. He said the Palestinians wanted a national leadership which shouldered the “liberation project” [the destruction of the State of Israel] and was committed to “resistance” [violence and terrorism] in all its forms to achieve the national goals, and in particular, “armed resistance” (Palinfo, December 28, 2023; al-Jazeera TV website, December 28, 2023).
    • Husam Badran, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, stated that they were in favor of the establishment of a government of Palestinian national consensus for a specified time that would have specific tasks (al-Jazeera Mubasher Telegram channel, March 12, 2024).
    • Musa Abu Marzouq, a member of the Hamas political bureau and chairman of its bureau of international relations, claimed governing had never been a goal for Hamas and it had tried more than once to hand over the keys of government to the PA. He claimed they were in favor of an independent government of experts, with Palestinian agreement, which would manage Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and whose source of its authority would be the PLO, but only after it had accepted all the “organizations,” including Hamas and the PIJ He also claimed that Hamas’ entry into the PLO should not be “conditional” (al-Ghad TV YouTube channel, February 22, 2024).
    • Bassem Na’im, a senior Hamas member, said that the Western powers were eagerly preparing for “the day after” the war and making arrangements and formulating plans and scenarios, but the situation in the Gaza Strip and “Palestine” in general was an internal Palestinian matter, and no one had the right to interfere with it or formulate plans while ignoring the Palestinians. He added that all political and security plans for Gaza which did not have Palestinian agreement would not succeed, and the Palestinians would oppose them (al-Araby al-Jadeed, January 13, 2024; Anatolia Agency, January 13, 2024; website of the Tunisian radio station Jawhara FM, January 13, 2024).
The heads of the clans and large families
  • Recruiting the heads of clans and large families to lead the Gaza Strip instead of Hamas was raised for the first time by Israel. Reports were published stating Israel was conducting talks with clan leaders in the Gaza Strip to have them replace the Hamas leadership and manage the distribution of aid, and perhaps even become a governing body “the day after.” Most of the clan heads did not respond to the call, mainly because of their connections with Hamas. For example, the journalist Muhammad Haniyeh reported he had spoken with mukhtar Salman al-Mughni, chairman of the clan authority in the Gaza Strip, who pointed out that the clans were not a government or governing body, and that they absolutely refused to manage the distribution of humanitarian aid. He claimed they would not betray the “resistance” (Muhammad Haniyeh’s X account, March 13, 2024).
  • Hamas praised the clans that refused to cooperate with the “evil plans of the occupation.” According to Hamas, Israel was trying to create coordinating bodies out of the Palestinian people, and the families’ refusal showed their support for the “resistance,” the Hamas government and the popular security bodies (Hamas Telegram channel, March 14, 2024).
  • In practice, a number of clan heads in the northern Gaza Strip did accept oversight of the distribution of humanitarian aid. On March 17, 2024, it was reported that six aid trucks had entered the northern Gaza Strip and seven had entered Gaza City, for the first time since November 2023, with no casualties. It was reported that the committee of large families, the mukhtars and the family elders had overseen a fair distribution of the aid (al-Jazeera YouTube channel, March 17, 2024).
 Aid trucks enter the northern Gaza Strip for the first time with the assistance and supervision of clan heads (al-Jazeera YouTube channel, March 17, 2024)
Aid trucks enter the northern Gaza Strip for the first time with the assistance and supervision of clan heads (al-Jazeera YouTube channel, March 17, 2024)
Muhammad Dahlan
  •  Muhammad Dahlan, 62 years old, born Khan Yunis, is an ousted Fatah figure who currently lives in Abu Dhabi and serves as an advisor to Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, the UAE president. He is apparently trying to return to the center of affairs in the Palestinian arena while taking advantage of his connections in the Gaza Strip. He told The New York Times that Israel and Hamas would be forced to hand over management of the Gaza Strip to an independent Palestinian leader capable of carrying out its rehabilitation. He claimed he was trying to influence Hamas to let him manage the Strip and had recently met with some of the movement’s leaders to discuss the issue (The New York Times, February 14, 2024). Dahlan receives support and backing from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt. According to the Palestinian commentator Jahed Harb, Muhammad Dahlan is a prominent Palestinian politician who has a wide network of connections and can raise significant amounts of money in the UAE for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip (Watan Agency, February 14, 2024).
 Muhammad Dahlan (Watan Agency, February 14, 2024)
Muhammad Dahlan (Watan Agency, February 14, 2024)
  • According to the Lebanese daily al-Akhbar, which cited “informed Palestinian sources,” the meeting of representatives of the Palestinian “organizations” which recently took place in Rafah was attended for the first time by representatives of Muhammad Dahlan. It was held after he had met with the Hamas leadership abroad and told them he wanted to contribute to the arrival of the aid, and not for political reasons. According to the sources, everyone assumes that the presence of Dahlan and his followers provides a necessary line of communication on the ground with the IDF forces, the Egyptians or the international bodies responsible for bringing the aid (al-Akhbar, Lebanon, March 18, 2024) .
  • Given his activity, Dahlan apparently has not ruled out preparing the ground for the day after Mahmoud Abbas and playing a central rule in the future PA leadership.

[1] Click https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en to subscribe and receive the ITIC's daily updates as well as its other publications
[2] For further information, see the March 2024 ITIC report, "Appointment of New Palestinian Authority District Governors.
[3] The appointment of Dr. Muhammad Mustafa as Prime Minister received sharp criticism from Hamas, which claimed Mahmoud Abbas had appointed him unilaterally and without Hamas' agreement. In addition, his appointment was the result of United States pressure and to satisfy it