“The last chance” – this is how we can characterize the letter sent in recent days by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to the International Quartet members.
In his letter, Abbas complained that the PA is expected to conduct itself like a government without being allowed to govern. He further detailed what he views as Israeli failures during the negotiations and finished with a warning: Should Israel fail to commit to genuine actions in March, “all options are open.”
Some officials in Jerusalem interpreted Abbas’ words as an ultimatum. On the other hand, some view the letter as a cry of despair , with Abbas saying that he will not held accountable for the outcome should the diplomatic process remain deadlocked and a flare-up ensue.
In this respect, the Palestinian Authority chairman is indeed on the brink of despair: His reconciliation with Hamas is a farce, and negotiations with Israel do not actually exist.
Abbas’ threats to turn to the United Nations, UNESCO and the Security Council indeed concern Israel, yet also pulverize the PA economically – the US Congress views these unilateral steps as a breach of past agreements that calls for punishment.
In addition, Abbas cannot boast achievements in the areas of development, construction and infrastructure. Meanwhile, Israel refuses to hand over Area C to Palestinian control and refuses to free Fatah prisoners.
And so, this distress is expressed via a message to Israel, the US and Europe: We are entering a period of a government vacuum. The US is unwilling to do a thing on the Palestinian front until after the November elections, and until then the PA may crumble. The Fatah movement, led by Abbas, will be washed away in the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood wave sweeping through the Middle East.
Israel’s nightmareSome senior Palestinian officials are already discussing at this time the possibility of dismantling the PA and returning the mandate to Israel. This is one of the defense establishment’s worst nightmares – a recent study showed that should Israel get back the territories, it would cost us more than NIS 12 billion (roughly $3.3 billion) a year, not to mention the other implications.
On the other hand, some PA officials are saying: Let’s go for the entire diplomatic jackpot in the international theater, regardless of what Congress does. We shall again turn to the Security Council and UN General Assembly in order to elicit diplomatic recognition, we shall revive the demand to address the Goldstone Report’s conclusions in the Human Rights Commission, and we shall harass Israel in every possible diplomatic theater.
The Palestinians are also mulling the option of turning to the Red Cross in Geneva in order to embark on a process that would grant Fatah detainees held by Israel the status of war prisoners. Not surprisingly, the Swiss government already responded favorably to the Palestinian inquiry and is willing to assist the PA in promoting the move.
Of course, some voices in the Palestinian Authority are also discussing an end to or minimization of the defense cooperation between Palestinian security arms and Israel. This would imply less restraint on the Palestinian street in the West Bank and a more minor handling of Hamas and Jihad elements.
Israeli security officials are already sensing the tension in the air: Riots on Temple Mount, riots in Kalandiya, stone-throwing and Molotov cocktail attacks.
However, at the end of the day, this is not really an ultimatum. This is a letter of despair written by a man who can, at any given moment, get up, leave everything behind and travel to the home waiting for him in Qatar, near his son’s grave. And what about us? We’ll be longing for the Abbas era in the Palestinian Authority.