The Oct. 7 terrorist massacre in southern Israel made it all too clear that Hamas must go. But after it is gone, who will take the helm in Gaza?
Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented that Gaza’s administration “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” Secretary Blinken and the Biden administration should think again.
Over the course of 11 days from May into June 2023, I spent hours in conversation with Palestinian Authority leaders. I had been selected to join a group of 30 undergraduates from Yale and West Point on a trip to Israel and the West Bank, part of the schools’ joint Peace and Dialogue Leadership Initiative. Trips like these offer Palestinian leaders an opportunity to court impressionable, young American students. The presentations from Palestinian Authority officials were as revealing as the living conditions we saw throughout the West Bank. The Palestinian people are being used as pawns by the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. must proceed with caution or risk substituting one corrupt authority with another.
Many Palestinians live in appalling conditions. In Bethlehem, I watched a little girl weave through moving cars to get to school — no crosswalks or traffic lights in sight. Even in areas that seem economically secure, infrastructure is severely lacking. Walking down an alley in Ramallah, I saw plastic tubing cracking along the side of an apartment building, causing precious water to gush onto the dusty road.
I pressed the political leaders with whom we met to understand how this could be the reality for many Palestinians. The authorities who acted as our hosts emphasized the misfortunes of their people, but they took no responsibility themselves. In fact, the extent of their seeming indifference is astonishing.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that between 1994 and 2020, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has received more than $40 billion in international aid. The Biden administration dedicated $316 million just last year to supporting Palestinians. When I asked a Palestinian Authority official in Ramallah where American funding for the PA goes, he responded by saying that the U.S. does not provide any support at all. Algeria, he claimed, is the only country that offers financial aid.
When I asked another leader in Jericho about the Palestinian Authority’s practice of financially supporting the families of suicide bombers and other incapacitated terrorists (“martyrs,” as they are commonly referred to by Palestinians), he did not deny it. Rather, he insisted that the alternative was to let those families suffer. Incentivizing terrorism never sounded so innocent.
The Palestinian Authority blames the weak infrastructure in their territories on the “Israeli occupation,” claiming that Israel cruelly restricts their ability to provide for their own citizens. In a private meeting, one former Palestinian Authority official called this the “drip effect.” Israel, he argued, provides the Palestinians with just enough resources to survive, but never to thrive.
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Gabriel Diamond is a research assistant at Yorktown Institute.