Abbas threatens to dissolve PA if Israel frees prisoners

30/07/2008

From Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last week
warned that he would dissolve the PA entirely if Israel
released from its jails Palestinian parliamentarians
affiliated with the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, the
Israeli press reported Wednesday.

Israel is detaining more than 45 Palestinian lawmakers in
captivity to force Hamas to release an Israeli occupation
soldier Palestinian fighters captured during a cross-border
operation near Gaza more than two years ago.

According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Abbas
delivered the warning to the chief Israeli military
commander in the West Bank, Gen. Gadi Chamni, via Hussein
al Sheikh, head of the PA’s Civil affairs Department.

Al-Sheikh, a former security chief, is responsible for
coordinating with Israel on matters involving the occupied
Palestinian territories.

Ha’aretz termed Abbas’s warning as “a personal message,”
adding that the PA leader stressed to Shamni that he “did
not speak merely of resigning but of dismantling the PA.”

Al-Sheikh vehemently denied the Ha’aretz report, describing
it as “fabricated.”

“I am not going to dignify this by commenting on it,” said
al Sheikh, adding that he would sue Ha’aretz for Libel.

According to reliable sources in Ramallah, Abbas believes
freeing Palestinian lawmakers incarcerated in Israeli jails
would reactivate the Hamas-dominated Palestinian
Legislative Council which could then initiate a vote of
no-confidence against the American-backed government of
Salam Fayyadh.

The Palestinian legislative council is now effectively
paralyzed due to the Fatah-Hamas rift and the collective
detention by Israel of the vast majority of Hamas’s West
Bank lawmakers.

The PA Chairman, Ha’aretz said, feared that the release of
senior Hamas politicians from Israeli custody in exchange
for the imprisoned Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, would
strengthen Hamas at Fatah’s expense.

The PA has been carrying out a crackdown, ostensibly in
coordination with Israel, against Islamic and semi-Islamic
civilian institutions throughout the West Bank.

The targets included schools, orphanages, charities,
businesses, health and financial institutions as well as
numerous NGOs.

Moreover, PA security agencies, financed and armed by the
United States, have arrested hundreds of
religiously-oriented figures suspected of sympathizing with
Hamas. The detainees include college professors, students,
religious leaders, and intellectuals.

PA-controlled media has generally ignored the Ha’aretz
report which is liable to embarrass and discredit Abbas and
his regime in the eyes of the Palestinian masses.

Israel favors Fatah over Hamas, thinking that the former
would be willing to make far-reaching concessions to the
Jewish state in matters pertaining to the final-status
issues such as Jerusalem, borders and especially the
paramount right of return for millions of Palestinians
uprooted from their homeland when Israel was created more
than sixty years ago.

Israel holds in its jails and detention camps more than
10,000 Palestinian prisoners, hundreds of them are
incarcerated in harsh conditions without charge or trial.

Some of the most prominent Palestinian leaders imprisoned
in Israel include Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Ahmed
Sa’dat and Speaker of the Palestinian parliament Abdul Aziz
Duweik.

Hamas is demanding that Israel free a thousand Palestinian
prisoners, including all arrested politicians, in exchange
for Shalit.

However, Israel is worried that meeting Hamas’s demands
would bolster the status of the Islamic movement throughout
the occupied territories, especially in the West Bank where
the PA “government” is functioning under the Israeli
military occupation.

Palestinians in general are very sensitive with regard to
the prisoner issue since numerous Palestinian families are
directly affected by the lengthy arrest of their beloved
ones which leaves a heavy psychological and economic impact
on these families.

(end)

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