The Palestinian Authority (PA), which had made threats of disbanding should Israel not meet certain of its demands, appeared to walk back those threats yesterday according to reports in The Jerusalem Post. Nevertheless, certain PA sources continued to discuss dissolution as a viable option.
The Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted unnamed sources in the PA leadership as saying that the PA might still be dissolved as a response to Israeli “intransigence.”
The sources said that the PLO’s Negotiating Department has begun studying ways of dissolving the PA and the repercussions of such a move. The threat to dissolve the PA was not an “exercise,” the sources insisted, but an option still on the table.
Other officials were quoted over the past few days as saying that President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to dismantle the PA in protest against the lack of progress in the negotiations.
The reported threat, which comes as the April 29 deadline for the end of the peace talks looms, is seen as an attempt to exert pressure on the US and Israel to comply with Palestinian demands, especially regarding the release of convicted Palestinian terror prisoners from Israeli jails.
But Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Monday began to walk back those threats in the face of international criticism, even denying that the Palestinian Authority has been considering dissolving itself.
Members of the Fatah Central Committee who met in Ramallah on Monday night to discuss the crisis in the peace talks did not have the issue of dissolving the PA on their agenda, according to a senior Fatah official.
Gen. Adnan Dmeiri, spokesman for the PA security establishment, dismissed the talk about dissolving the PA as an “Israeli invention.” Israel was trying to create frustration among Palestinians by spreading such reports, he claimed.
The PLO Central Council, which is expected to meet later this week, does not plan to discuss the dismantlement of the PA, said Wasel Abu Yusef, a top PLO official. “No one is talking about the option of dissolving the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
The conflicting statements by Palestinian sources may also indicate internal disarray and disagreement over how to proceed following the anticipated collapse of talks following April 29.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian Authority on Monday, saying that its threats to dissolve and its efforts to forge unity with Hamas indicate a lack of desire for peace.
“Today, we saw the Palestinian Authority speak of dismantling itself and also talking about unity with Hamas,” the premier said. “They should decide – either dissolve, or enter into a union with Hamas. When they want peace, they should let us know. Because we want a genuine peace.”
The US State Department also spoke out against dissolution. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority would constitute an “extreme step” that would “obviously have grave implications” including the possible suspension of substantial American aid to the PA.
“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,” she warned at her daily press briefing in Washington.
“A great deal of effort has gone into building Palestinian institutions, by Palestinians, as well as by the international community,” she said. “It would certainly not be in the interest of the Palestinian people for all of that to be lost” by dissolving the PA.