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Clueless, desperate and bankrupt

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abbas-obamaby Khaled Amayreh in Ramallah

As the Israeli government of Binyamin Netanyahu is striving hard to make sure that any prospective Palestinian entity would be unviable, highly truncated and territorially discontinuous, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is trying to explore ways to overcome Israeli intransigence.

However, in doing so, the PA seems to be trying only old and familiar measures, all of which have proven utterly useless.

For weeks now, PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been vowing (some PA operatives use the term threatening), to send a "a final letter" warning the Israeli prime minister that the Palestinians are thoroughly fed up with Israeli stalling tactics and that they might abandon the two-state solution once and for all.

It is not clear why Abbas has not delivered the letter so far, but the Palestinian media has been relating to it as if it was a secret weapon the PA would unleash to bring the Hebrew state to its knees.

Informed sources in Ramallah intimated that the letter is still kept in the PA drawer in deference to the International Quartet, especially the United States. The PA hopes, rather desperately, and still, that the Obama administration will pressure Israel to freeze settlement expansion in the West Bank even temporarily, which would enable the PA to resume peace talks face saved.

However, the political prognosis both in Washington and Israel is not very encouraging as far as the PA is concerned.

The US administration is in an election year, and its ability and willingness to exert any meaningful pressure on the Netanyahu government is limited if not non-existent, as this would be manipulated by the Republicans to score political points against President Obama.

Rather, the Obama administration has been pressing the PA to wait until after November, when the US elections are held, to take any action.

But the political situation facing the PA is getting more desperate by the day and Palestinians, including Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) loyalists, are getting disenchanted and with a seemingly phony peace process that is going nowhere.

This is while Israel pursues all-out settlement expansion that all parties, including the Americans, know all too well will scuttle whatever remaining prospects exist for the establishment of a truly viable Palestinian state.

Earlier in the week, the Israeli media revealed that Yossi Belen, the former leader of the centre-left Meretz faction, delivered "advice" to Abbas recommending that the Palestinian leader embark, sooner rather than later, on dissolving the PA apparatus in order to save the Palestinian dream of establishing a state that is worthy of the name.

In his advice, Belen argued that only a genuine threat to dismantle the PA and "smack the occupation back in Israel's face" would convince Netanyahu to get serious about the two-state solution.

Belen further argued that dismantling the PA would impose a heavy financial burden on Israel, which would create huge controversy inside the Hebrew state.

The logic in Belen's letter is that only the prospect of Israel becoming a bi-national state is worse than the perpetuation of the occupation and that the rightist leadership in Israel would sacrifice the "bad" in order to avoid the "worst".

Abbas, who received the advice rather politely during a meeting with Belen in Ramallah on 8 April, reportedly told the former Israeli minister that he believed Israelis and Palestinians could achieve an end to the enduring conflict. Nonetheless, Abbas repeated earlier warnings that the status quo could continue.

Abbas reportedly also said he intended to present yet a new initiative in the near future to jump-start stalled peace talks.

However, most Palestinian pundits seem convinced that any new Palestinian initiative encapsulating the minimum of Palestinian rights and aspirations would be rejected outright. More to the point, a new Palestinian initiative is guaranteed to increase Palestinian frustration, as Palestinians are tired of numerous initiatives aborted by Israeli intransigence and US complicity with Tel Aviv.

RESULT OF LONG STRUGGLE: Wasel Abu Yousuf, a member of the PLO Executive Committee was quoted by Maan news outlet as describing the PA as a great national achievement which he said was the fruit of many decades of bitter struggle.

"There is not a single Palestinian official advocating dismantling the PA, which is the accumulative result of our people's struggle."

The high regard given to the PA contradicts statements by other PA officials. For example, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Ereikat has been quoted on several occasions as saying that the sole and only purpose behind the existence of the PA was to establish a Palestinian state.

"If the PA fails to establish the state, then it loses its raison d'être," he said.

Meanwhile, PA Foreign Minister Riyad Maleki submitted letters to the UN, ahead of a meeting of the Quartet in Washington on Wednesday. "The letter called on the international community, particularly the Security Council, to condemn Israeli settlement activity -- which is illegal under international law -- and other illegal policies in the occupied Palestinian territories," Maleki wrote.

The message also called for "urgent measures to put pressure on the occupying power (Israel) in order to compel it to stop these actions and policies immediately".

Meanwhile, Palestinian and Israeli sources have indicated that some form of negotiations between the two sides is planned for the next few days and weeks.

The resumption of talks without any freeze of settlement activity in the West Bank on Israel's part is considered an important Palestinian concession.

Palestinian officials said at every opportunity that they wouldn't resume stalled peace talks unless and until Israel stopped settlement expanding activities. A Palestinian decision to resume talks with Israel under the present circumstances would reflect the dire situation facing the PA. It would also strengthen the Netanyahu government and vindicate its extremism in the eyes of Israelis.

A last note: the precarious political situation facing the PA is compounded by an acute financial crisis that has crippled the ability of the Ramallah government to pay its estimated 150,000 civil servants their salaries. Government spokesman Ghassan Khatib said the crisis was likely to get worse before getting better.


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