Mahmoud Abbas DRAFT letter: “The P.A. lost its raison d’etre”.

The Times of Israel today published in English, here, the full text of the DRAFT letter that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has been preparing to send to Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu later this week.

The Times of Israel said that the DRAFT letter from Abbas was “bitter”.

Haaretz’s Barak Ravid first wrote about this letter ten days ago, here, as we reported here — but Haaretz did not publish the full text.

In his article, Ravid noted that “The letter was meant to include a threat to dismantle the PA, although that paragraph was later taken out due to heavy U.S. pressure”.

Ravid also reported the news that at the end of March, “a secret meeting was held between Saeb Erekat and [Netanyahu adviser Yitzhak] Molho. While the two hold occasional phone conversations, last week’s session was the first meeting between the two officials in two and a half months. In the meeting, Erekat relayed the content of the letter Abbas intends to pass on to Netanyahu in the coming days. Molho and Erekat are expected to meet again before the Palestinian delegation arrives for the meeting with Netanyahu”.

Ravid did Tweet the DRAFT letter’s four pages, in Arabic, and the links were included in our post, here.

But, it is likely that the letter that will be delivered is in English, because when Israelis and Palestinians sit together for negotiations, they speak in English, and when they draft agreements [like the Oslo Accords], it is done in English. Really.

In the letter, which is still apparently in DRAFT form, Abbas writes:

    “Twenty years ago, we concluded with Israel an agreement under international auspices which was intended to take the Palestinian people from occupation to independence. Now, as a result of actions taken by successive Israeli governments, the Palestinian National Authority no longer has any authority, and no meaningful jurisdiction in the political, economic, social, territorial and security spheres. In other words, the P.A. lost its reason d’être”.

Journalists [including here] are reporting that Abbas has “stopped short” of dissolving the P.A.

Abbas has been reported to be contemplating just that. His former negotiating partner, Yossi Beilin, called on Abbas to dissolve the P.A. in an article published on FP recently here. Beilin wrote to Abbas, via FP:

    “One simply cannot continue with an interim arrangement for almost 20 years. This was not the intention when we spearheaded the Oslo process in late 1992 — you from Tunis and I from Jerusalem — or when we assiduously worked on what subsequently became known as the ‘Beilin-Abu Mazen Agreement’ between 1993 and 1995. You and I both understand that the current situation is a ticking time bomb … Do not hesitate for a moment! Do not accept the request of President Obama, who merely wants to be left undisturbed before election day. Do not let Prime Minister Netanyahu hide behind the fig leaf of the Palestinian Authority — impose upon him, once again, the responsibility for the fate of 4 million Palestinians. Remain as the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which will give you the authority to lead the political negotiations if and when they resume. But for the sake of your own people, and for the sake of peace, you cannot let this farce continue”.

The words from Abbas are clear — and it does not seem possible to understand them as saying anything other than the present game is over.

If this doesn’t mean that the P.A. is being dismantled, then the Palestinian people have good reason to want to know why not.

    UPDATE: In an informal poll conducted Monday afternoon in Ramallah, four Palestinian men all expressed puzzlement, uncertainty, and thinly-disguised disgust.   One, a former journalist, gave a standard template analysis: “Abbas is just playing for time… he knows nothing will happen until after Obama is re-elected in November”, he said.  One, a senior leader in a small Palestinian faction, said only: “Our problems are more serious than anybody really knows”.

Meantime, the real question is: why will Salam Fayyad be delivering this letter to Netanyahu? [It may happen on Tuesday 17 April in Jerusalem...]

Is it just because Netanyahu prefers Fayyad to Sa’eb Erekat? It’s true that Fayyad and Erekat will be accompanied by the Secretary of the P.L.O. Executive Committee, Yasser Abed Rabbo — but Fayyad’s position is only with the P.A.

All three men are expendable — though all of them have survived strong criticism before.

Fayyad is the Prime Minister and Finance Minister of the Palestinian Authority [P.A.] created by agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO] as a local temporary and subsidiary body to administer the occupied Palestinian territory during negotiations.

Fayyad was appointed PM in the P.A. by Abbas to replace Hamas leader Ismail Haniyya, after Hamas kicked Fatah/Palestinian Preventive Security out of Gaza in mid-June 2007, and Abbas retaliated to that “military coup”, as he called it at the time, by a political coup dissolving a short-lived “National Unity” Government. This is one reason why Hamas refused to agree to keeping Salam Fayyad as PM in a new “technocratic” government that was supposed to be formed after a reconciliation agreement concluded in Cairo last year.

Fayyad himself has never been formally involved in negotiating, though he has had a couple of official meetings in Jerusalem previously [one was with Condoleezza Rice, during the Annapolis process].  Fayyad is a resident of East Jerusalem, and does not need a permit to travel around Jerusalem [or within Israel, if he wanted...]

We have speculated on this in a previous post [on 7 April], published here.

The DRAFT letter from Abbas, meanwhile, calls on the Government of Israel to do the following:

    “1- Accept the two-state solution on the 1967 borders with possible minor and mutually agreed upon land swaps of equal size and value;
    2- Stop all settlement activities, including in East Jerusalem;
    3- Release all prisoners, in particular those imprisoned prior to the end of 1994; and
    4- Revoke all decisions taken since 2000 which undermine agreements signed between Israel and the PLO”.

These are obligations, the Abbas DRAFT letter says [meaning, not "pre-conditions" as the Israellis complain].

If Israel refuses to honor these obligations, the Abbas DRAFT letter says:
“We will seek the full and complete implementation of international law as it pertains to the powers and responsibilities of Israel as occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territory.  For the Palestinian Authority—now stripped of all meaningful authority—cannot continue to honor agreements while Israel refuses to even acknowledge its commitments. The P.A. is no longer as was agreed and this situation cannot continue”.

What does that mean — “The P.A. is no longer as was agreed and this situation cannot continue”…

It does not sound like a call to return to the situation before the Camp David talks of the summer of 2000, or to the pre-Second-Intifada situation…

It sounds, in fact, just like a decision to dissolve the P.A. …

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