Abbas aide: PA won’t tear up Oslo, but also won’t comply with accord

Day after Abbas threatens to discard agreement, Mahmoud Habbash says Palestinians won’t be ’employees’ of Israel

Palestinians watch the speech of PA President Mahmoud Abbas on a giant screen in Ramallah as he addresses the world at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 30, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)
Palestinians watch the speech of PA President Mahmoud Abbas on a giant screen in Ramallah as he addresses the world at the United Nations headquarters in New York on September 30, 2015. (AFP/Jaafar Ashtiyeh)

Ramallah won’t cancel agreements signed with Israel over the last 20 years, but “will not comply” with them, a senior Palestinian official said Thursday, a day after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians were no longer bound by the accords.

Mahmoud Habbash, a senior adviser to Abbas, warned that the Palestinians “will not work as employees of Israel” in maintaining the agreements, according to the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency.

Abbas “told the world that from now on [PA] commitment to agreements would be bound by Israel’s commitment to the same agreements,” Habbash said.

On Wednesday, Abbas warned that Ramallah would no longer be bound by the Oslo Accords since Israel continually violated the landmark 1993 agreement, which created the PA.

“So long as Israel refuses to commit to the agreements signed with us, cease settlement construction and release prisoners, Israel has left us no choice but to insist that we will not remain the only ones committed to these agreements,” he told the UN General Assembly.

The speech was blasted not only by Israeli politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called it “deceitful,” but was also criticized by Palestinians for failing to clearly lay out steps against Israel.

But Habbash told Ma’an that the address begins “a new stage in the relationship with Israel.” He did not elaborate on what the “new stage” may mean in practice.

Habbash did not say when, and in what form, the PA would step back from past agreements. “Future steps haven’t been made public yet,” he told Ma’an, and “each step will be determined according to the circumstances.”

Ahead of his speech at the UN, Abbas’s office distributed — to diplomats from several countries — a document detailing what the PA sees as Israel’s violation of past accords

Israel, according to Habbash, “in reality terminated the PA.” He said the three territorial designations created in the Oslo Accords — which divide areas into Israeli and Palestinian civilian and security control — “do not exist anymore.”

Palestinian Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud Habbash (photo credit: Issam Rimawi/Flash90)
Mahmoud Habbash, senior adviser to Mahmoud Abbas (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Before Abbas went to the UN, his associates threatened he was about to drop a “bombshell” in his speech. Speculations regarding the nature of the “bombshell” ran the gamut from Abbas’s own personal resignation to announcing the dismantling of the Palestinian Authority as a political entity, both of which have been threatened several times in the past.

In the beginning of the week, US Secretary John Kerry explicitly asked Abbas to avoid making overt threats at Israel during the speech.

Although the speech on Wednesday evening did turn out to be hostile to Israel, it contained no announcements of any immediate steps the PA or Abbas would take.

Habbash repeated the sentiment on Thursday, when he told Ma’an that Abbas’s remarks at the UN General Assembly would not be implemented immediately and that the Palestinian leader would return to the West Bank in coordination with Israeli authorities.

According to Ma’an, the speech was seen as underwhelming also in the Gaza Strip.

“No matter how powerful, eloquent and deep the Abbas speech was, it remains nothing more than words,” the news agency quoted Ghazi Hamad, one of the top Hamas officials in the Strip, as saying.

Writing on his Facebook page, Hamad said that the international community was left cold by Abbas’s speech. He added that Israel, in the wake of the speech, had no plans to stop settlement construction.

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