Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is once again threatening to resign – this time if the direct peace talks fail, a senior PA official said over the weekend.
The official said that despite Abbas’s latest threats, the PLO and Fatah have yet to start searching for a replacement to the PA president.
During a recent meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, Abbas declared: “I have made a decision and I will announce it at the appropriate time.”
The official told the daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi that said that members of the committee understood Abbas’s declaration as a new threat to resign.
Abbas has over the past few years repeatedly threatened to resign, each time for a different reason.
Asked what steps the Palestinian leadership would take when and if Abbas carries out his threat to quit, the PA official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the Fatah Central Council would then meet to elect one of its members as PA president.
He added that the PLO Executive Committee, another key decision-making body, would be asked to ratify the appointment of the new president.
The official also denied that the Palestinians were considering creating a new job – Vice President of the PA. He explained that such a move would require the Palestinian Legislative Council, which has been paralyzed for the past three years because of the split between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to pass a law in this regard.
The official revealed that the PA was unhappy with Washington’s plan to focus on bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Abbas rather than talks between delegations representing both sides.
He said that this was the first time since the signing of the Oslo Accords that the two parties were being asked to conduct summit talks and not negotiations between two teams.
With regards to the issue of settlement construction, the PA official reiterated that the Palestinians would pull out of the talks if the current freeze, which expires later this month, is not extended. He said that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised Abbas to solve the issue, but did not elaborate.
Nabil Sha’ath, member of the PA delegation to the peace talks, said over the weekend that Abbas and the Palestinians won’t make any concessions to Israel.
He said that the two sides have been discussing core issues in a “positive atmosphere.” However, the continuation of the peace process depends on Israel’s actions on the ground, especially settlement “expansion.”
Sha’ath said that the day the Israeli moratorium on settlement construction expires will be a “decisive day.”
The decision, he added, is in the hands of the Israeli government. “If they extend the settlement freeze, the negotiations will continue,” he said. “If not, they talks will be stopped.”
Sha’ath reaffirmed the PA’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. “It’s premature to say what will happen if the peace talks fail,” he said. “We still don’t know if the PA will be dismantled.”