Abbas threatens to quit if 'escalation' continues

IDF raids bring Fatah, Hamas closer; PA official: Events make Abbas look like part of aggression.

Abbas ponders 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Abbas ponders 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is considering resigning from his post if Israel continues its military operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, a top PA official said Thursday. The official said Abbas, in a series of phone conversations with Arab, American and EU leaders and government officials, strongly condemned Israel's attacks as a "severe blow" to the peace process. "The president has said that he will resign if the military escalation and daily killings continue," the official said. "Israel's actions undermine the Palestinian Authority and drive more Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas and Islamic Jihad." According to the official, Abbas was particularly enraged that Israel had stepped up its military operations shortly after US President George W. Bush's visit to the region. "The military escalation is being seen as a direct result of Bush's visit to Ramallah," the official said. "This puts President Abbas in an uncomfortable position and makes him look as if he's part of the aggression." Another PA official said Abbas was also considering disbanding the Palestinian negotiating team as a first step toward suspending peace talks with Israel. Abbas's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, accused Israel of seeking to sabotage the peace talks in the aftermath of the Annapolis peace conference. "President Abbas's position is that the Israeli military aggression and the settlements not only cause harm to the peace process, but will destroy it," he said. "Israel must halt its military attacks immediately to save the peace process." Asked if the PA is considering suspending peace talks with Israel, he said: "Such a decision should not be taken by the Palestinians alone. This should be a decision of all Arab parties." Abbas on Thursday chaired an emergency meeting of the PLO Executive Committee in Ramallah to discuss the latest upsurge in violence and its impact on the peace process, sources close to Abbas said. Following the meeting, the committee issued a statement accusing Israel of turning the West Bank and Gaza Strip into a "bloody battlefield." The committee condemned the IDF's operations as "terrorism" that jeopardized the peace process. Meanwhile, the ongoing IDF attacks appear to have brought Hamas and Fatah closer to each other after months of fighting. Representatives of the two parties have appealed to their leaders to set aside their differences and join ranks to face the Israeli operations. Several Fatah officials on Thursday visited Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza City to offer their condolences over the death of his son, Husam, in Tuesday's IDF operation. The delegation was headed by top Fatah operative Ibrahim Abu al-Naja. The visit came hours after Abbas phoned Zahar to also offer his condolences. It was the first time the two had talked since Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last June. Kadoura Fares, a former Fatah minister from Ramallah, called on Fatah and Hamas to seize the opportunity and end their power struggle. Some Fatah officials expressed anger over the apparent rapprochement with Hamas. They also criticized Abbas and Fatah leaders who contacted Zahar to offer their condolences, saying that Zahar was one of the leaders of the "coup" against Fatah in the Gaza Strip and responsible for the death of many Fatah members.