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Does President Abbas have the power to dissolve the Palestinian Authority?

January 24, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Just one week separates two recent statements by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, each of which contradicts the other. He hinted in his first statement to a “conditional acceptance” of a state with provisional borders; in his second statement he threatened to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, after “discovering” that it is an “authority that has no authority”. His personal dignity would not permit him to continue in its presidency, or even to accept its continued existence.

Both statements drew waves of disbelief, clarification and corrections by the pillars of the PA and its leaders. That’s understandable, as no one wants the president to be seen as “excessive” on one of the Palestinian constants, as implied by the first statement, and no one, especially those “benefitting from the survival of the regime” wants the president to “give up” this “gain”, this “great achievement”.

This transition from one extreme to the other, in a very short time, reflects the state of confusion and loss of direction within the PA, PLO and Fatah. Although they have claimed that “negotiations are life”, little has been received in return for sitting at the table with the occupiers except disappointment, denial and humiliation. The president acknowledged this and framed it as his “personal dignity”. We were hoping that he would have addressed the issue from a national perspective as the future of the state is more important than the “dignity” of an individual, no matter what position that person occupies.

In a rare confession the President added that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is “deluxe… five-star and inexpensive”; he did not ask who is responsible for reducing the cost for the occupiers and converting it into a comfortable and very profitable project. His own responsibility, as head of the PA and for the things done in his name, for the situation that has been reached, has not been addressed. Who and what turned the Palestinians from being a threat to the Israeli occupation forces to a mere source of inconvenience, especially to the settlers?

Should we take the President’s threat to dissolve the PA seriously? Hardly; he has played the resignation card so often it no longer carries any weight. As a loyal citizen, I would counsel President Abbas to stop raising this matter.

Furthermore, I do not believe that the Palestinian Authority will be dissolved, even if the President wanted it, for the simple reason that he does not have the authority to do so. In any case, too many people benefit from its existence; they are influential and are backed by Israel and the United States, the international community and the Arab states. A worst case scenario would see Abbas asked to step down, leaving the PA to continue to reduce the cost of the occupation and make it more profitable for those in high places. As long as the parasites exist, so will the Palestinian Authority; as long as the monthly pay cheque is more important than the national project, the PA will be there.

According to Wikileaks, the PA represents an “issue of high Israeli interest”, praised by Benjamin Netanyahu for building state institutions under occupation, consistent with economic peace.

The Palestinian Authority may have arisen out of a national Palestinian decision, at an acknowledged time in an international context as the prelude to a full state with self-determination. However, ever since the Authority became a “pension fund” and “security coordination” with Israel turned it into an object of “high Israeli interest”, a decision to dissolve it has ceased to be the prerogative of an increasingly angry and frustrated president.

The first statement of President Abbas is probably more believable and it is more likely that he and the PA are going to accept a “state with provisional borders”; the search is on for a “framework” that will serve as a “cover” to get the Authority and the presidency off the hook. Once such a framework is in place, the “state with provisional borders” will morph into an “agreed solution”. If the framework does not materialise, the state would become a “solution fait accompli”, the bitter fruit of the marriage between Netanyahu’s economic peace and Salam Fayyad’s institutional peace imposed upon the people of Palestine.

Source: Ad Dustour newspaper, Jordan

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.