Abu Mazen threatens to dissolve Palestinian Authority
Published Friday, December 28, 2012
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas warned Thursday that he would disband his Palestinian Authority if there was no Israeli movement toward renewing peace talks after Israel's elections on January 22, and received praise from Yisrael Beitanu leader Avigdor Lieberman for the remarks.
Abbas, in an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, said that if such the political stalemate persisted he would hand over "the keys" for the occupied West Bank to the Israeli government.
"If there is no progress even after the election I will take the phone and call (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu," Abbas said.
"I'll tell him... Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys, and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority."
"Once the new government in Israel is in place, Netanyahu will have to decide -- yes or no," Abbas said in the interview published on the paper's website late Thursday.
Former Israeli Foreign Minister and leader of Yisrael Beitanu Avigdor Lieberman issued a 'congratulations' for the remarks.
"We are congratulating Abu Mazen [Abbas] for reaching the correct conclusion, that only after his disappearance from the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, it will be possible to renew the diplomatic process," Lieberman said in a statement.
"We are eagerly anticipating a formal announcement issued by Abbas' office regarding his retirement," he added.
Lieberman is a leading coalition partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's current re-election bid, which the latter is widely projected to win.
The Palestinian Authority was set up in the West Bank and Gaza 1994 with the return to Gaza after 27 years in exile of Yasser Arafat, leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Yet, the agreement caused significant fractures within the PLO, with several members withdrawing their support and arguing that it had wrongfully conceded Palestinians' right to historic Palestine, and only further entrenched Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.
One of the agreement's harshest and most prominent critics was the late Palestinian academic Edward Said.
"The Palestinian people are paying the heavy, heavy unconscionable price of Oslo, which after 10 years of negotiating left them with bits of land lacking coherence and continuity, security institutions designed to assure their subservience to Israel, and a life that impoverished them so that the Jewish state could thrive and prosper," Said wrote in a retrospective 2002 piece for electronic magazine Counterpunch on the accords.
Under the Oslo accords on Palestinian autonomy, it was due to rule for a transitory period ending in May 1999.
Headed by Arafat, who died in 2004, then by Abbas, the Authority has exercised executive and legislative authority and has theoretically been responsible for security in the West Bank.
This was not the first time that Abbas had resorted to such threats, but the Palestinian Authority has found itself in a grave situation over the past few months due to an unprecedented financial crisis exacerbated by recent Israeli sanctions.
Israel has withheld $100 million in Palestinian money, or taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, in an effort to mete out punishment against the PA for pursuing a UN status upgrade. It has also stepped up illegal settlement building, unfreezing previously dormant plans to create more than 2,000 new units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Last month, Abbas took to the UN General Assembly podium to bid for non-member statehood status, receiving endorsements from an overwhelming majority of states, leading to the upgrade going through.
Talks between the Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions.
In Thursday's interview Abbas said that since the status upgrade Israel had also reduced security coordination with Palestinian forces in the West Bank.
He said he would be willing to renew negotiations with Netanyahu after the election but would demand that Israel freeze further settlement construction while they are being held, renew the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues that Israel has been withholding and release some 120 long-term Palestinian prisoners.
"These are not preconditions, these are commitments Israel already took upon itself in the past," he told Haaretz.
Netanyahu called early elections for January 22 in Israel, with his right-wing coalition expected to win.