Abbas: Palestinian Authority May Disband

Mahmoud Abbas is threatening to resign and disband the Palestinian Authority altogether.

abbas-rallyThe 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?”

Mr. 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 American 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. Mr. 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. Mr. Netanyahu favors negotiations without preconditions.

Just like Obama!

Seriously, though, Abbas has a point.  The Palestinian Authority is in some ways the worst of both worlds, having most of the responsibilities of an independent state with none of the independence.  They’re largely powerless in the negotiating process yet treated as if they had control of their borders.  As such, “Palestinian Authority” is about as much of a misnomer as Pakistan’s “Federally Administered Tribal Areas.”

It’s not clear, however, what would replace the PA.  Fatah, Yasir Arafat’s old political wing, is much diminished these days.   And the two sides’ goals are so incompatible that it’s difficult to see how statehood ever becomes a reality.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Well, if Hamas is the only party putting up candidates, that should prove interesting….

  2. Brett says:

    Assuming it actually happened, you’d probably see the people behind it fracture into feuding Fatah factions complete with militias formed from former PA troops (the ones being trained under Dayton). Elections, of course, would be essentially impossible, seeing as how there would be no real government in the areas in question other than the Israeli occupation.