Frustrated with US, Abbas said to be weighing dissolving the PA
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Frustrated with US, Abbas said to be weighing dissolving the PA

PA head also reportedly considering renewing bid for full membership at UN; tomorrow a delegation from Ramallah will meet ICC chief prosecutor

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

US President Donald Trump , left, and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas stand for their national anthems during an arrival ceremony ahead of their meeting in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Nasser Nasser)
US President Donald Trump , left, and President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas stand for their national anthems during an arrival ceremony ahead of their meeting in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 23, 2017. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

The Palestinian Authority continues to be disillusioned US efforts to revive the peace process and is now considering dissolving the PA and renewing a Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership, Arabic media reported on Wednesday.

Abbas’s deliberations come ahead of a visit to the region by US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is set to arrive in Israel on Wednesday night with a US peace delegation, after quietly meeting with leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

According to the report in the Lebanese daily Al Hayat, which cited unnamed “reliable” sources in the PA, Abbas is waiting for Kushner and Trump’s envoy to the region Jason Greenbelt to give him a written response to his conditions for returning to the negotiating table, which are “freezing settlement construction in the West Bank and working towards a two-state solution.”

The Palestinians are also reportedly renewing their bid to halt Israel’s settlement expansion through the International Criminal Court (ICC). The report said a PA delegation will travel tomorrow to the ICC’s headquarters in the Hague in order to the meet with the court’s chief prosecutor Fatu Bensuda.

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)
US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

On Tuesday, Ahmad Majdalani, a top aide to Abbas, said the Palestinians asked Kushner for the US position on two key issues — Israeli settlements and support for Palestinian independence — during his last visit to the region in June.

“Since then we didn’t hear from them,” he said.

“We hope they bring clear answers this time,” he added. “If not, then the peace process cannot be resumed because we cannot negotiate from scratch.”

Should Abbas dissolve the PA, according to the Al Hayat report, he would transfer governing power back to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the historic umbrella group for Palestinians. Abbas is head of the PLO.

Abbas is reportedly working to hold a meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), which is the highest legislative body of the PLO, and elects the PLO leadership. The PA president is working to hold the meeting before the UN General Assembly next month, in which he is slated to give a speech.

In 2011, Abbas initiated the Palestine 194 campaign, which, in the absence of fruitful peace talks, sought to win Palestinians a state through international forums.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, addresses the November 25, 2013 meeting at the United Nations, New York. (photo credit: United Nations)
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, addresses the November 25, 2013 meeting at the United Nations, New York. (photo credit: United Nations)

At the time, the administration of former US President Barak Obama promised to veto any resolution granting the Palestinians full UN membership in the security council.

In 2012, the Palestinians changed course, and instead submitted a resolution to be granted status as an observer state in the UN through the General Assembly. The resolution passed, which allowed Palestinians to co-sponsor resolutions, to join treaties and specialized UN agencies, such as the ICC.

Trump has asked his delegation to focus the talks on this trip around several broad themes, including finding “a path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, combating extremism [and dealing with] the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there,” according to a senior White House official.

While Ramallah has officially welcomed US peace efforts, officials have begun to grumble about what they see as a lack of US commitment to a two-state solution or finding a way forward, as well as a bias toward Israel’s positions.

Abbas said on Sunday that the entire Trump administration is in “chaos,” and indicated that the White House disarray was affecting peace efforts.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (2nd R) at the presidential residence in Ramallah, West Bank, on August 20, 2017. (Osama Falah / Wafa)
PA President Mahmoud Abbas (R) meets with Meretz chairwoman Zehava Galon (2nd R) at the presidential residence in Ramallah, West Bank, on August 20, 2017. (Osama Falah / Wafa)

“I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos,” Abbas told a delegation of dovish Israeli lawmakers visiting Ramallah.

Abbas told parliamentarians from the Meretz party that he had met with US officials more than 20 times since Trump’s election in November 2016, yet still had little idea what their plans for peace negotiations were.

Recently, off-the-record remarks by Kushner — made to a casual gathering of congressional interns — were leaked to the media in which he said there may not be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

AP contributed to this report.

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