As the Palestinian Authority makes an effort to retake control of the Gaza Strip, a major concern for the Ramallah-based governing body is the future of arms and security in the small territory.
The PA has been demanding complete control of Gaza’s weapons and full responsibility for its security. “I will not accept reproducing the Hezbollah model,” PA President Mahmoud Abbas told Egyptian television in early October, adding in an interview a few weeks later, “There is no room for the presence of militias [in Gaza].”
One of the most prominent reasons the PA wants to take control of Gaza’s weapons is to prevent a scenario in which it bears responsibility for the Strip while militant groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad still carry out attacks on Israel.
Such a scenario concerns the PA because of the possibility of Israel holding it liable for an attack launched by Hamas or Islamic Jihad against the Jewish state.
For instance, just two weeks ago, after the IDF demolished a cross-border attack tunnel, killing 10 members of Islamic Jihad and two from Hamas, Islamic Jihad threatened to carry out a revenge attack against Israel.
In response, instead of saying Islamic Jihad would be held accountable, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas, the current sovereign in Gaza, would bear responsibility for any such attack.
“We hold Hamas responsible for any attack against us launched or organized from the Gaza Strip,” Netanyahu told a weekly cabinet meeting on November 12.
In addition, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said both Hamas and Islamic Jihad would be held accountable for any attack undertaken by Islamic Jihad.
There is no doubt that the PA leadership is wondering if Israel would apply the same standard to it, if it were to become the sovereign or responsible party in Gaza, and one of the armed groups there were to launch an attack against the IDF or against Israeli civilians.
In such a situation, would Israel take action against the PA? Or would Israel target the specific groups that carried out the attack?
According to Netanyahu’s comment, it seems possible the PA could find itself paying the price for an attack it did not perpetrate.