Economy Minister Naftali Bennett defiantly chafed on Sunday at Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ latest threat to resign and disband the autonomous government that has been ruling over the Palestinian areas of Judea and Samaria.
“Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nom de guerre) encourages terrorism against Israel as the head of the Palestinian Authority, and then he threatens us with his resignation,” Bennett, who heads the pro-settler Bayit Yehudi party, said on Sunday.
“If he wants to go, we won’t stop him,” the minister said. “The Jewish people do not negotiate with a gun held against their temple.”
Bennett was responding to a report in the Hebrew-language tabloid Yedioth Ahronoth, which quoted Palestinian sources as saying that the leadership in Ramallah is seriously considering the dismantling of the PA if and when negotiations with Israel completely break down.
According to Yedioth, sources in the IDF Central Command said that there is a growing sentiment within the Palestinian security services that the Ramallah government is planning to decommission the authority which was created out of the Oslo Accords and hand complete administrative responsibility over all of the West Bank to Israel.
Over the weekend, Abbas hinted in an interview with the website of the popular Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm that his time was coming to an end.
When asked if he was exhausted by the challenges of waging the Palestinian struggle, Abbas replied: “My children and the next generations will ask us, ‘What have you done? What have you achieved?’”
“I am 79 years old going on 80,” Abbas told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “Time has really flown by.”
“There is no other option except to pass the flag and move on, but it is difficult to do so now because the burden is a tough one and the responsibility is great while the dangers trump the achievements,” Abbas said. “Who of our people will support us and who will oppose us? What will the Palestinian people do? How will history judge us?”
Abbas repeated his oft-stated stance that he would never support an armed intifada. He told Al-Masry Al-Youm that if Washington “decides to insist on its position, it has the tools to pressure Israel, and it is capable of doing so.”
When the Egyptian interviewer brought up the statement made by Abbas’ late predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who vowed that he would “hold an olive branch in one hand, and a gun in the other,” the Palestinian leader insisted that he differed from his old boss.
“The Palestinian people still want peace,” Abbas said. “But the younger generation is sensing that the two-state solution is slipping away, and it is instead leaning toward a solution of a bi-national state. As long as I am the leader, however, I support a two-state solution, and not a bi-national state.”
The Egyptian newspaper Al-Quds reported on Sunday that US peace envoy Martin Indyk is imploring the Israeli government and the PA to extend the negotiations until the end of this year. During talks with representatives from both sides, Israel turned down a Palestinian offer to agree to more negotiations past the April 29 deadline in exchange for Jerusalem’s agreement to begin talks on the contours of a future Palestinian state.