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US wants a 'revitalized' Palestinian Authority, but can Abbas deliver?

The recent call by US President Joe Biden for Gaza and the West Bank to be reunited under "a revitalized Palestinian Authority" has left many questioning what this might look like.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) shakes hands with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas during their meeting in Jordan's capital Amman on October 13, 2023. Blinken began on October 12 a tour of Arab capitals as he seeks to build pressure on Hamas while Israel readies a likely massive offensive on the Gaza Strip following the militants' attacks. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

AMMAN — As the international community and Western think tanks continue to discuss the future of Gaza and Palestinian leadership, US President Joe Biden weighed in on Nov. 18 in an opinion piece for The Washington Post in which he called for Gaza and the West Bank to be reunited "under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority." 

In backing a two-state solution, the US president also threatened to deny visas to Israeli settlers involved in attacking Palestinians in the West Bank.

This US position vis-a-vis Palestinian leadership reminds me of exactly what happened two decades ago when the Americans and Israelis were unhappy with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat because of his refusal to accept a deal offered by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak that he said didn't go far enough. 

Back in the early 2000s, the Americans were perceived as having encouraged Palestinians to rephrase their bylaws to give more power to the position of prime minister than the powers that were given to the president, thereby diluting Arafat's power and bolstering Mahmoud Abbas, who became prime minister. But Arafat remained powerful despite these political maneuvers backed by Washington. Some maintain that the Americans want to similarly reduce the powers of the presidency, namely Abbas' powers, turning the position into more of a symbolic one. 

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