Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu criticized the Palestinian Authority on Monday, saying that its threat to dissolve and the ruling Fatah faction’s 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 told revelers at a Mimouna celebration in Or Akiva. “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.”
Palestinian officials in Ramallah on Monday denied that the Palestinian Authority has been considering dissolving itself if the peace talks with Israel fail.
Some 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 approaches, is seen as an attempt to exert pressure on the US and Israel to comply with Palestinian demands, especially regarding the release of prisoners.
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.
The council would discuss the situation in Jerusalem, the prisoner release and efforts to establish a Palestinian unity government headed by Abbas, Abu Yusef said.
“No one is talking about the option of dissolving the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
“Rather, we are talking about international recognition of a Palestinian state and our efforts to join international treaties and organizations.”
Another PLO official, Qais Abu Laila, also ruled out the possibility that the PA might be dismantled. He said that this was “unrealistic” option and would not be on the agenda of the PLO council meeting. “I don’t believe that dismantling the Palestinian Authority is a healthy and right measure,” he said. “This would be suicidal.”
PLO Executive Committee member Tayseer Khaled said the dismantlement of the PA was not on the table. The Palestinians should instead reconsider their relations with Israel if the peace talks fail, especially with regards to economic and security cooperation, he said.
“If Israel does not abide by the agreements, the Palestinians also won’t adhere to them,” Khaled said.
However, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quoted unnamed sources in the PA leadership as saying that the PA might be dissolved as a result of 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 solve the PA was not an “exercise,” the sources said. This option is on the table, they added.
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, meanwhile, said the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority would constitute an “extreme step” that would “obviously have grave implications.”
“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.”
Herb Keinon contributed to this story.