Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has thrown up more doubts about the future of the Gaza Strip, suggesting that the Palestinian Authority in its current form should not take charge of the coastal enclave.
Israel has vowed to destroy Palestinian group Hamas, which governs Gaza, following its shock October 7 cross-border assault, and has launched a full-scale invasion of the territory.
However, it has not spelt out who should rule the enclave once the conflict is over, saying only that Israel would maintain overall security.
Washington has said Israel cannot occupy the enclave after the war, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying last week that the Gaza administration had to be re-unified with the nearby West Bank, parts of which are run by the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday that the PA could play a future role in governing the Gaza Strip, but Netanyahu indicated late Saturday he did not want the current PA rulers to be given free rein in Gaza.
At a news conference, Netanyahu aired his long-standing grievances over the PA’s school syllabus, which he says fuels hatred of Israel, and its policy of giving salaries to families of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
“There will not be a civilian authority that teaches its children to ... eliminate the state of Israel, there can’t be an authority that pays salaries to the families of murderers,” he said. He added: “There can’t be an authority headed by someone who, more than 30 days after the (October 7) massacre, has still has not condemned (it).”
Abbas has denounced violence against civilians “on both sides” but has not issued an unequivocal condemnation of the October 7 attack, where 1,200 people were killed and around 240 were kidnapped, mainly civilians, according to an Israeli tally.
Palestinian officials say more than 11,078 Gazans had been killed by Israeli strikes over the past five weeks, about 40 percent of them children.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesperson for Abbas, told Reuters the Israelis were seeking to perpetuate divisions between the two Palestinian territories -- the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza.
“Israeli attempts to separate Gaza from the West Bank will fail, and it will not be allowed, regardless of the pressures,” he said.
The PA used to run both the West Bank and Gaza, but got ousted from the latter in 2007 after a brief civil war with Hamas.
While Western governments want to involve the PA in the future of Gaza, diplomats say, there is also concern that the 87-year-old Abbas does not have sufficient authority or the support of his people to take charge.
“Right now, there is no clear idea of what might happen in Gaza once the fighting stopped,” a Jerusalem-based diplomat said.