Photo Credit: YouTube screenshot
An IDF tank reaches the Rafah crossing, May 7, 2024.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday spoke with his ministers about events at the Rafah crossing, and told them, “I and one other minister (Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer) are the only ones in the war cabinet who have prevented the Palestinian Authority from controlling the Rafah crossing. We will not reward the PA and we are working to thwart all its control in the Strip,” Reshet Bet Radio reported Thursday morning.

Netanyahu was speaking in response to reports that representatives of the PA had arrived at the Rafah crossing. Netanyahu vehemently denied the notion that the PA would gain control of the crossing.

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On November 1, 2017, Hamas handed over the Rafah crossing to the PA, ten years after expelling it from the Gaza Strip. However, while the officials in charge came from Ramallah, the boots on the ground at the crossing continued to belong to Hamas.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant openly contradicted Netanyahu’s position on who would rule Gaza on the day after the war, advocating for the PA to take over the strip.

“The day after Hamas will only be achieved through the control of Palestinian elements that will be an alternative to Hamas,” Gallant insisted, warning that “This is in Israel’s interest. Not making a decision means actually choosing one of the worst alternatives.”

Gallant believes there are only two alternatives to the PA rule: either Israel imposes a military occupation in Gaza for the foreseeable future, which would draw enormous resources from an already depleted military budget; or Hamas would continue to rule, presumably with IDF raids each time a terrorist activity is detected.

But the alternative proposed by Gallant, Benny Gantz, and the White House describes an imaginary, reformed PA Arab regime, interested in peace with Israel and professionally capable of running things in Gaza. The only problem with this vision is that there are no such unicorns.

PA BE GONE

On Wednesday night, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and other ministers demanded to bring about the financial collapse of the PA. Netanyahu directed Justice Minister Yariv Levin to draw up a package of sanctions against the PA for advancing the initiative to recognize a Palestinian State.

During the debate in the cabinet, Smotrich told Netanyahu: “You should announce that the State of Israel will establish a new settlement in Judea and Samaria as a response to any country that unilaterally declares recognition of a Palestinian state.”

The Prime Minister himself said in the debate: “80% of the public that was educated by the Palestinian Authority supports the October 7 massacre. We will not reward it nor will we allow this (a PA takeover of Gaza) to happen.”

Netanyahu’s response to Gallant’s proposal was, “I am not ready to replace Hamas with Fatahstan,” meaning that with Hamas gone, the PLO’s Fatah terrorists would begin attacks on Israel.

Meanwhile, the US is demanding that Israel transfer to the PA the taxes it collects on its behalf, which Smotrich has been withholding. Senior American officials have put heavy pressure on senior Israeli officials in recent days, insisting that “This money must be transferred to the Palestinian Authority. If it is not transferred, it would cause an acute financial crisis in the PA and may set the territory on fire.”

The funds that must be transferred to the PA to finance its salaries to jailed terrorists and their families will presumably be a major subject of discussion with Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan who is due to arrive in Israel on Sunday.

Smotrich’s office issued a statement saying, “Today, the Palestinian Authority leads unilateral moves in international institutions, and fights legally and politically against the State of Israel, against its right to defend itself and eliminate Hamas, and against the IDF fighters and commanders. Those who act against our fighters and commanders in The Hague should not receive any assistance.”

Smotrich attacked Netanyahu for delaying a law the two coalition partners had agreed upon, to confiscate NIS 3 billion ($820 million) belonging to the PA. In a letter Smotrich sent Netanyahu he wrote: “You are blocking a source of budget that should be used to finance the reconstruction expenses of the Tekuma region (the Gaza envelope), with the terrorist funds being used to repair the damages.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.