Brinkmanship from Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinians have issued an offer to save peace talks, and a threat to cause chaos if Israel doesn’t follow its wishes.

Earlier this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he is prepared to extend negotiations beyond their scheduled end this coming Tuesday if Israel freezes settlement building, releases terrorists from its prisons, and immediately starts discussing the borders of a Palestinian state.

A few days previously he told a group of Israeli politicians that if negotiations don’t restart, he will dissolve the Palestinian Authority, putting Israel in charge of the day-to-day affairs of the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank.

The PA has catered for the needs of most Palestinians in the West Bank since it was created in the Oslo peace process of the 1990s, and also has an extensive security operation that liaises with Israel and keeps terror activity in check. But Abbas told Knesset members that he would “hand over the keys” to Israel.

Abbas’s threat came as the Palestinian Authority relaunched unity talks with the hardline Hamas regime in Gaza, prompting Israel to lash out against its mix of ultimatums aimed at its peace partner and its cosying-up to extremists.

Netanyahu presented Abbas’s threat as further vindication of his view that Abbas isn’t serious about moving the peace process forward, and said the ball is in the PA’s court. “They should decide whether they want to disband or have unity, and when they want peace, they should let us know because we want a genuine peace.”

America responded to Abbas’s threat with concern. “That type of extreme step would obviously have grave implications,” said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman for the US State Department.

She went on to say that the dissolution of the PA would cause international investment to go down the drain. “A great deal of effort has gone into building Palestinian institutions, by Palestinians as well as the international community, and it would certainly not be in the interests of the Palestinian people for all of that to be lost,” she said. “We, the United States, have put millions of dollars into this effort. It would obviously have very serious implications for our relationship, including our assistance going forward.” After America’s response, the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed that the dissolution isn’t under consideration.

Among Israeli analysts, there is a mixed reaction to the talk of dissolving the PA. Some say that while the possibility has been raised before, today the two-state solution is in deep crisis and the talk could be serious, while others say that Palestinians would be cutting off their nose to spite their face. “It would be like dismantling a state and when the result might be chaos you risk your own future,” Hebrew University political scientist Abraham Diskin told The AJN.

NATHAN JEFFAY