World and Nation

Palestinians See Threat to Group If Leader Resigns

The collapse of the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s negotiating partner, was raised as a possibility on Monday, as several aides to its president, Mahmoud Abbas, said that he intended to resign and forecast that others would follow.

“I think he is realizing that he came all this way with the peace process in order to create a Palestinian state, but he sees no state coming,” Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian peace negotiator, said in an interview. “So he really doesn’t think there is a need to be president or to have an Authority. This is not about who is going to replace him. This is about our leaving our posts. You think anybody will stay after he leaves?”

Abbas warned last week that he would not participate in Palestinian elections he called for, to take place in January. But he has threatened several times before to resign, and many viewed this latest step as a ploy by a Hamlet-like leader upset over Israeli and U.S. policy. Many also noted that the vote might not actually be held, given the Palestinian political fracture and the unwillingness of Hamas, which controls Gaza, to participate.

In the days since, however, his colleagues have come to believe that he is not bluffing. If that is the case, they say, the Palestinian Authority, which administers Palestinian affairs in the occupied West Bank and serves as a principal actor in peace negotiations with Israel, could be endangered.

Four top officials made the same point in separate interviews. Abbas, they say, feels at a total impasse in negotiations with the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has declined to commit to a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, including East Jerusalem. Netanyahu favors negotiations without preconditions.

Azam al-Ahmad, head of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said he spoke with Abbas on Saturday and that the Palestinian president was likely to resign in the next month or so. “Nobody will accept to be president under this situation,” Ahmad said. “We could witness the collapse of the Palestinian Authority.”

Ali Jarbawi, the minister of planning, spoke in similar terms in an interview, asking, “Why do we need anybody to take his place if the whole process is failing? If the authority is going to go on forever, who needs it?” But he suggested that the crisis was aimed at persuading the United States and Europe to become more actively involved in bringing about a two-state solution.