The current crisis in the US-sponsored peace talks does not mean that the Palestinian Authority is planning to walk out of the negotiations with Israel, Palestinians in Ramallah emphasized Thursday.

Expressing confidence that US Secretary of State was determined to prevent the two sides from declaring the failure of the peace talks, the Palestinians said that Mahmoud Abbas’s decision to join international institutions and conventions does not affect his commitment to pursue the negotiations at least until the end of April.

“The rising tensions between the Palestinians and Israelis should not be seen as sign that the talks are headed toward a breakdown, as some tend to believe,” said Palestinian political analyst Talal Okal. “Israel has no interest in this and the Americans won’t allow such a raucous failure. The US has over the past eight months put a lot of effort and energy into this process.”

Okal and other Palestinians describe the current crisis as a “storm in the American cup.” They believe that the US alone continues to hold all the cards and will eventually manage to get the peace process back on track.

Abbas himself has indicated his desire to pursue the peace talks despite his decision to join 15 international organizations and treaties. He and senior Palestinian officials have over the past few days repeatedly stated that the decision does not mean in any way that the Palestinians are intending to pull out from the talks.

The Palestinians stressed that Tuesday’s decision was only in response to Israel’s refusal to release the fourth and final batch of Palestinian prisoners at the end of March.

“The move came in response to Israeli blackmail,” said Hassan al-Batal, another political analyst affiliated with the Palestinian Authority. “The decision to join the international organizations and conventions is meant to show that the Palestinian Authority is serious in establishing a link between the release of the pre-Oslo prisoners and its pledge to refrain from seeking the intervention of international legitimacy.”

Abbas’s move is also seen by many Palestinians as an attempt to boost his standing among his people.

Abbas is now being hailed even by his political foes, including Hamas, for standing up against the US Administration and Israel.

To achieve his goal, Abbas made sure that his signing of the applications to join the international bodies was broadcast live on Palestine TV. He wanted to show the Palestinians that he’s not a weal leader who capitulates to American and Israeli pressure and is capable of making tough decisions.

Shortly after the signing ceremony in Ramallah, Abbas’s Fatah faction instructed its activists to take to the streets in the West Bank to show their support for their president. In their eyes, Abbas is a hero who does not hesitate to defy the Americans and Israelis.

Abbas is now hoping to exploit the showdown with the Americans and Israelis to enhance his standing at the negotiating table with Israel. He’s convinced that his decision to apply for membership in various international institutions and treaties has given him a mandate to continue with the talks even beyond April.



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