abbas, cabinet 298 AP.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is under growing pressure to dismantle the PA because of the continued violence and anarchy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Dismantling the PA, which was established in 1994, would effectively mean returning to the pre-Oslo Accords era, when Israel was in charge of civilian and security affairs in the entire area. Supporters of the proposal hope that it would force Israel to assume its responsibilities toward the Palestinian population as an "occupying force," including paying salaries to civil servants and providing basic services.
Demands for dissolving the PA gained momentum this week when PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told legislators in Gaza City that the time had come to seriously consider such a drastic measure.
Haniyeh said that the Israeli campaign against Hamas representatives over the past five weeks, including the arrest of several ministers and legislators, was part of a "well-planned scheme" designed to overthrow the Hamas government.
"In light of the Israeli measures against our government, I believe that we will have to start looking into the possibility of dismantling the Palestinian Authority," he said.
Haniyeh was particularly enraged by the arrest on Sunday of Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council. "Israel is trying to destroy all our institutions," he said. "They forgot that we are a democratically elected government."
Haniyeh's position is backed by PLO Foreign Minister Farouk Kaddoumi, a staunch opponent of the Oslo Accords who is based in Tunis. Kaddoumi, who regards himself, and not PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar, as the "true foreign minister of Palestine," is said to have urged Abbas this week to seriously contemplate the possibility of dismantling the PA.
Ghassan al-Masri, a spokesman for Kaddoumi, said the PA should consider the move unless Israel accepted three conditions: the withdrawal of the IDF to the positions it held before September 2000 positions, when the second intifada started; the release of frozen PA tax and tariff revenues; and the release of all Hamas ministers and legislators who have been arrested since the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit on June 25.
"It's inconceivable that the Palestinians should pay the cost of their occupation by Israel," Masri said. "Why shouldn't Israel, in its capacity as an occupation force, bear the expenses of our education, health and social welfare systems? Why should it be an inexpensive occupation for Israel?"
Former PA finance minister Salaam Fayad has also joined the chorus. "I think we have the right to question the effectiveness of the continued existence of the Palestinian Authority as we lose hope and as our cause is being marginalized by the international community," he said. "The Palestinian Authority has almost no role in the political process. The existence of the Palestinian Authority frees Israel from its responsibilities as an occupation force."
Opponents of the move argue that dismantling the PA would only serve Israel's interest in destroying the Palestinian regime and foiling efforts to create an independent Palestinian state.
"Instead of talking about dissolving the Palestinian Authority, we should be discussing ways of reactivating our institutions," said PA negotiator Saeb Erekat. "The Palestinian public is fully aware of the fact that Israel's main goal is to destroy the Palestinian Authority. We must act in line with the interests of our people, not Israel."
Qais Abdel Karim, a legislator and representative of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said he was surprised to hear that some Palestinians were calling to dismantle the PA. "Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinian Authority so that it could tell the world afterward that there is no partner for peace on the Palestinian side," he said.
"This is the first step toward imposing unilateral solutions on the Palestinians. The question, therefore, is not whether we should dissolve the authority or not, but how to strengthen it so that it could continue to assume its responsibilities," he said.