Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has warned he may dissolve his self-rule government and ask Israel to resume full control of the West Bank if troubled peace talks fail.
Dismantling the Palestinian Authority would be a last resort, Abbas told Palestine TV in an interview broadcast late Friday. However, his comments marked the most explicit warning yet that he's considering a step that could crush lingering hopes for a Mideast peace deal.
If Abbas were to take such a step, Israel, as a military occupier, would have to assume full responsibility again for 2.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel was relieved of that financial burden with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, as part of interim peace deals.
Still, Abbas might face considerable domestic opposition to dismantling the Palestinian Authority, since it employs some 150,000 Palestinians, a large chunk of the work force.
The Palestinian self-rule government, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year in foreign aid, has limited authority over 40 percent of the war-won West Bank, while Israel has final say over the entire area and exclusive control over 60 percent of the land.
Palestinian leaders currently are threatening to quit peace talks with Israel unless it freezes construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Israel so far has refused to do so.
Abbas has said that if peace negotiations collapse, the Palestinians might seek unilateral UN recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six Dayt War.
"If all efforts fail," Abbas said, "I will tell the Americans and the Israelis come and put an end to all this. I can't continue like this. We have an occupation and we don't. No, keep it all and release me (from my responsibility)."
On Saturday, Netanyahu called Abbas to thank him for sending members of the Palestinian civil defense to help fight a major fire that is devouring much of the Carmel Forest in northern Israel. It was a rare instance of personal contact after weeks of silence between the two leaders.
Also Saturday, Abbas' interior minister ordered the closure of a satellite TV station co-owned by Mohammed Dahlan, a former confidant of the Palestinian leader.
The station, Palestine Tomorrow, was to begin broadcasting in January. Palestinian security forces came to the office of the company operating the station on Thursday and delivered the closure order, said a senior station official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of further retaliation.
Dahlan, a former Gaza strongman, and Interior Minister Said Abu Ali declined comment.
Shuttering the station seems to be the latest sign that Dahlan, a leading member of Abbas' Fatah movement, has fallen out of favor. Dahlan once served as a security adviser to Abbas, and at one point was considered a potential successor to the president.
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