Israeli ex-negotiator blasts Palestinian Authority

Friday, April 6, 2012

JERUSALEM -- A former Israeli negotiator and key architect of the 1990s peace effort that established the Palestinian Authority says the self-rule government should be dismantled because it is enabling Israel to continue its occupation of the West Bank.

Ex-Justice minister Yossi Beilin this week published an open letter on the U.S. website Foreign Policy calling on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to end "this farce."

Beilin told Israel's Channel 10 TV on Thursday that the so-called "Oslo Accords" have failed to bring about peace.

"By ending Oslo, we will erase the optical illusion that everything is OK," he said.

The Palestinian Authority has self-rule over the main cities of the West Bank and is a key source of employment, but Israel retains overall control because the sides failed to reach a peace deal. Adding to its troubles, four years ago Abbas' government lost control of the Gaza Strip, which was seized by its rival, the militant group Hamas.

Palestinian critics have increasingly charged that the Palestinian Authority, by carrying out security operations against militants in coordination with Israel, is in effect providing Israel with a tolerable means of holding onto the land.

The autonomy government was set up in 1994 and expanded territorially over the course of the 1990s. But it was meant to be an interim arrangement, with a final peace deal targeted for 1999. That deadline passed, and successive efforts to bridge the gap on the borders and the nature of an independent Palestinian state have failed.

Dismantling the Palestinian Authority -- probably leading to a restoration of full Israeli military occupation -- has always been considered a last-resort option for the Palestinians. But there have been growing rumblings about such a threat, and Abbas had even been considering making it in a letter he planned to send to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But according to a copy of the letter obtained a week ago by The Associated Press, the language has been dropped from the text.

Foreign diplomats said Abbas dropped the planned threat at the urging of President Barack Obama. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because the letter has not yet been sent.

Beilin urged Abbas to ignore U.S. pressure.

"Do not hesitate for a moment! Do not accept the request of President Obama, who merely wants to be left undisturbed before election day," he wrote.

Palestinian Authority negotiator Saeb Erekat said most Palestinians would prefer not to dismantle their government

"The better way is to restore the functions of the Palestinian Authority so it can take Palestinians from occupation to independence," Erekat said. "Israel's actions and policies and the settlement activity is taking away the Authority's raison d'être."

A spokesman for Netanyahu declined to comment.

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