Netanyahu Sees No Near-Term Role for Palestinian Authority in a Postwar Gaza

JERUSALEM — Even as Israeli tanks and ground troops continued to battle Hamas militants in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday outlined a postwar vision for the territory, one that he said would not involve the Palestinian Authority in its current form.

“We need to see the following two things,” Mr. Netanyahu told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Gaza has to be demilitarized and Gaza has to be de-radicalized,” he said. “And I think so far, we haven’t seen any Palestinian force, including the Palestinian Authority, that is able to do it.”

Mr. Netanyahu said “overall military responsibility” would be handled by Israel after the war.

The comments were at odds with views expressed by the Biden administration, which last week made it clear that there should be no Israeli “re-occupation” of Gaza. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken left open the possibility of a “transition period” after the war, but said that eventually Gaza’s administration “must include Palestinian-led governance and Gaza unified with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”

The Israeli military released footage over the weekend of tanks rolling past the concrete shells of half-destroyed buildings in Gaza and soldiers scrambling through abandoned homes. The military said five Israeli soldiers were killed on Friday, including four in a blast from a booby-trapped tunnel shaft. More than 360 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people and triggered the war.

The death toll among Gazans has been more than 11,000, according to health authorities in Hamas-controlled Gaza. And 1.58 million Gazans, around three-quarters of the territory’s population, have been displaced, according to estimates by the United Nations.

Israeli tanks along the border between Gaza and southern Israel on Sunday.Credit…Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Israeli military has sought to leverage its overwhelming edge in firepower: Fighter jets, combat helicopters and drones have rained bombs and missiles on the territory since the conflict began. Hamas militants, who according to experts number in the tens of thousands, have retreated into a vast warren of tunnels.

Over the weekend, Israeli forces were battling Hamas fighters in the Al Shati neighborhood on the northwestern edge of Gaza City, raiding dozens of buildings in what before the war was a densely populated area, an Israeli military spokesman, Daniel Hagari, said in a televised briefing on Sunday night.

Israeli troops also stormed the Gaza harbor, he said. Rear Admiral Hagari said Israeli soldiers had arrested dozens of Hamas militants and transferred them to Israel for interrogation.

“These tens of captives include those who participated in the Oct. 7 massacre,” Rear Admiral Hagari said.

Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks on Sunday echoed those he made to the Israeli public at a televised news conference on Saturday night, which had been his most extensive public description yet of his vision for Gaza after the end of the military campaign. He said that Israel must maintain security control there “for as long as necessary” and have the ability to enter Gaza at will to deal with perceived threats there.

Israel has been vague on who might administer Gaza if and when Hamas is ousted, even as it comes under increasing international criticism for the humanitarian crisis and spiraling civilian death toll.

But Mr. Netanyahu has now made it clear that he will not agree to the Western-backed Palestinian Authority handling civilian affairs in Gaza unless it changes some of its conduct and unless its leader, President Mahmoud Abbas, forthrightly condemns the Oct. 7 assault — something Mr. Abbas has refrained from doing so far.

Smoke rising over northern Gaza on Sunday.Credit…Fadel Senna/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

As well as the lack of condemnation, Mr. Netanyahu pointed to the teaching of hatred of Israel to children and monetary payments to assailants convicted of attacks against Israelis — all common Israeli accusations against the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in parts of the occupied West Bank.

“The massacre of Oct. 7 proved once and for all that in every place that Israel does not have security control, terrorism entrenches itself,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Saturday. “In the end it comes back to hit us, and that is also true of Judea and Samaria,” he added, referring to the West Bank by its biblical names.

That, he said, is why he will not agree to give up security control of Gaza “under any circumstances.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Mr. Abbas, emphasized on Sunday that any Israeli attempt to separate Gaza from the West Bank was destined to fail. In an apparent response to Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks, Mr. Abu Rudeineh said in comments carried by Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news agency, that “the consolidation of Israel’s occupation in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem would not bring security to anyone.”

Mr. Abu Rudeineh added that stability would only be achieved by ending the Israeli occupation and establishing an independent Palestinian state in those areas.

Mr. Netanyahu, a conservative and Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, has been prosecuting the war amid plummeting approval ratings. The ultranationalist parties that make up a key part of his governing coalition do not see the Palestinian Authority as a partner, and after the Oct. 7 attacks, there is a broad consensus among Israelis that Hamas must be ousted from Gaza — even though its complete elimination will most likely prove impossible.

Children in a U.N. camp for displaced people in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Saturday.Credit…Samar Abu Elouf for The New York Times

Outside of the Middle East, the humanitarian toll of the conflict and the passions the war has unleashed continued to resonate broadly.

The European Union on Sunday called for “immediate pauses in hostilities and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.”

In Paris and in cities across France on Sunday, more than 100,000 demonstrators took to the streets to voice their concern over antisemitic attacks that multiplied since the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

A wide cross section of France’s political establishment led the demonstrations, including former presidents and prime ministers.

In the last month, over 1,240 antisemitic acts have been reported in France — including the painting of more than 200 blue Stars of David on buildings around Paris. The police had made 539 arrests as of Nov. 10.

Isabel Kershner and Aaron Boxerman reported from Jerusalem, and Thomas Fuller from San Francisco. Catherine Porter and Liz Alderman contributed reporting from Paris.

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