Israel-Hamas War Live Updates: Houthi Attack in Red Sea Is Shot Down

As he toured the Middle East this week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken sounded optimistic on the prospect of Arab governments joining together to plan for Gaza’s future after the war, saying that he found them willing “to do important things to help Gaza stabilize and revitalize,” as he put it on Monday.

But in public, at least, Arab officials have distanced themselves from discussions about how to rebuild and govern Gaza — particularly while Israeli bombs are still falling.

Instead, they have stressed that Israel and the United States must implement a cease-fire, and then create a serious pathway toward creating a Palestinian state. The Biden administration is also calling for Palestinian statehood, which Israel’s government opposes.

“Without a stable, independent sovereign nation for the Palestinians, nothing else matters, because it will not come up with a long-term solution for the conflict that we’re seeing,” Prince Khalid bin Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the United Kingdom, told the BBC on Tuesday.

And on Sunday, during a news conference with Mr. Blinken, Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman of Qatar said, “There is no peace in the region without a comprehensive and just settlement.”

Officially, Arab governments have mostly dismissed the notion that they could participate in postwar planning before a cease-fire, arguing that this would be akin to helping Israel clean up its mess. And they are reluctant to be seen participating in Israeli visions for Gaza’s future.

Palestinians receiving food in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Tuesday.Credit…Hatem Ali/Associated Press

But Arab and U.S. officials also assert that the Palestinian Authority, undermined by successive Israeli governments, is the natural candidate to govern postwar Gaza. That stance has not changed despite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all but ruling out any role there for the authority.

On Monday, when Mr. Abbas met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, it was partly to coordinate positions on Gaza, a Palestinian official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The official noted that Mr. Abbas was pressing for a united Arab position that supports a broader Israeli-Palestinian settlement, rather than dealing with Gaza in isolation.

Mr. Abbas participated in a summit in Jordan on Wednesday with King Abdullah and Mr. Sisi to discuss the situation in Gaza. Mr. Abbas hopes that a committee including Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinians will convene in the future to further coordinate diplomatic efforts, the Palestinian official said.

“What’s taking place is consensus-building on the different pathways to the day after,” said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Chatham House, a London-based research group.

Arab public opinion — deeply hostile toward Israel and the United States, especially since the war began — is important, said Bader Al-Saif, a professor at Kuwait University.

“Any day-after scenario that doesn’t meet the masses’ quest for dignity and justice for Palestinians will eventually bite the different states of the region,” he said. “I’d keep that in mind if I were a policymaker.”

Arab countries have different views about what a future government in Gaza should look like, and how capable the Palestinian Authority is of taking over. Before the war, Gaza was ruled for years by Hamas, the armed group that carried out the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel.

Palestinian analysts say that to govern Gaza, Fatah, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, would have to achieve unity with Hamas. They predicted that Hamas would remain a critical part of Palestinian politics, though Israel has repeatedly said it will not stop fighting until Hamas is destroyed.

In 2007, Hamas seized power in Gaza while the Palestinian Authority retained limited control of the West Bank, dividing Palestinians territorially and politically.

“Abbas and the Palestinian Authority want to bring Gaza back under their administration — they believe the war has created a major opportunity for them,” said Jehad Harb, a Ramallah-based analyst. “But without reconciling with Hamas, they will struggle to govern there. ”