Shaping a Future for Gaza: Arab Nations and the PA Convene in Riyadh for Post-War Governance

In a pivotal meeting held in Riyadh earlier this month, top security officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority (PA) congregated with a singular goal: to strategize the reformation of the PA for an effective governance role in Gaza post the Israel-Hamas war. This gathering, reported by Axios, underscores the collective effort of Arab stakeholders to shape the region’s future.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known for his strategic foresight, has notably refrained from engaging in cabinet discussions about this issue. This reticence seems to stem from a concern about potential rifts within his coalition, highlighting the delicate balance of Israeli politics.

A conference advocating for settlements in Gaza and the relocation of Palestinians, attended by several of Netanyahu’s ministers, has brought contrasting viewpoints to the forefront. Netanyahu, aligning with the stance of Israel’s major wartime ally, the United States, has maintained a cautious approach, neither endorsing the PA’s return to Gaza governance nor proposing an alternate plan.

IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi’s recent warning to the security cabinet about the risks of not planning for Gaza’s future governance underlines the critical nature of this issue. It reflects the necessity of a well-defined strategy to preserve the military achievements secured after months of intense conflict.

The Riyadh summit is a significant milestone, symbolizing Saudi Arabia’s growing engagement with the PA. This deepening cooperation is part of Saudi Arabia’s broader strategy to affirm its commitment to the Palestinian cause. This commitment is particularly relevant as the kingdom explores normalizing relations with Israel under the Biden administration’s watch.

The meeting, led by Saudi National Security Adviser Musaid al-Aiban, included discussions on essential reforms within the PA. These reforms are deemed crucial for the PA to reassume control over Gaza, a territory it lost to Hamas in 2007. The Arab officials present urged PA President Mahmoud Abbas to implement these reforms, indicating a collective regional investment in Gaza’s future stability.

Furthermore, the meeting in Riyadh isn’t an isolated event. The United States is fostering a “contact group” involving Middle Eastern allies, focusing on similar objectives for Gaza’s post-war scenario. This initiative, as explained by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, aims to unite the region around a comprehensive plan, encompassing PA reforms, Gaza’s reconstruction, and potentially, ties between Jerusalem and Riyadh.

The success of these strategic efforts, including the contact group, hinges on several factors, including the scaling back of the ongoing war and cooperation from Israel. The prospect of President Biden’s direct involvement in these discussions underscores the high stakes and potential impact of these diplomatic efforts.

In the backdrop of these developments, the White House, led by Middle East czar Brett McGurk, is primarily focusing on the hostage situation, viewing a resolution as a key to de-escalating the war. Despite progress, significant gaps remain between Israel and Hamas, with each party holding firm to their respective positions.

These concerted efforts by regional powers and international stakeholders reflect a strong desire for stability and a sustainable future for Gaza. The emphasis on PA reforms and the potential normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel are indicative of a changing geopolitical landscape in the Middle East.

This strategic collaboration among nations, while navigating complex political dynamics, is a testament to the shared commitment to peace and stability in the region. It aligns with the values of the State of Israel, which seeks a secure and peaceful future for all its citizens and neighbors.