This farce should have been ended long ago. If the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had been blessed with a greater measure of self-respect, readiness for personal sacrifice and political audacity, they would have long since declared the PA liquidated and left all the responsibility solely in Israel's hands.

If they were more concerned about the subjects they are supposed to be in charge of - the well-being of their nation - they would have resigned and thereby torn the mask from the false impression of the supposed government and the "state in the making." They would have ceased to be the fig leaf that serves and perpetuates the Israeli occupation. Instead, they cling to the few honors and benefits that Israel continues to confer on a few of them, and they go on lending a hand to the great deception that a sovereign Palestinian Authority and a government with powers exist.

Under a cover of empty titles, they continue to take part in the fraud while many in Israel and elsewhere find it convenient to go on believing that the Israeli occupation of the territories has not reverted to being total, and that there is a Palestinia government. "Ministers," "director-generals," "deputy ministers" and "governors," whose titles are empty and lack any authority, and who cannot rule or make decisions about anything except for the official cars and the VIP cards that enable them to go through checkpoints, continue to make a mockery of their nation and the international community.

Is the Palestinian minister of internal security capable of seeing to the security of even one Palestinian in the face of the assassinations, the helicopters, the soldiers and the troops who burst into homes in the middle of the night? Is the health minister capable of seeing to the health of his nationals, when every soldier at every checkpoint can delay ambulances and patients and when the cities and villages are under lengthy curfew? And what can the agriculture minister do when settlers cut down and uproot hundreds of olive trees without interference or prevent the harvesting of the olives, and when the Israeli army defoliates thousands of dunams of fields and vineyards? And how will the minister of labor ensure jobs for the people, when they cannot even leave their places of residence? What can the transportation minister do when his country is strewn with checkpoints and the Israel Defense Forces is the exclusive sovereign that decides which roads are for Jews only and which Palestinian bus lines will be allowed to operate? The list goes on and on.

On the streets of Ramallah, a passerby joked this weekend: "While the Palestinians were arguing over whether Nasser Yusuf would be appointed interior minister or not, the Israelis finished building the separation fence." The majority of Palestinians have no idea who their cabinet ministers are, and for good reason: most of the small amount of aid they receive comes from organizations such as UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) and from the local governments, not from the imaginary government.

The most wretched situations of all are the meetings of Palestinian ministers with Israeli ministers. A case in point was the meeting between the finance minister, Salam Fayad (who suspended himself last Thursday), the favorite of the United States and Israel, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, which was intended solely to smooth Mofaz's visit to Washington. It's hard to understand why the Palestinian official agreed to meet with Mofaz - who more than any other Israeli is responsible for the cruel policy toward his nation - only to serve the political needs of the Israeli minister. Why is Israel allowed to boycott Palestinian leaders, above all Yasser Arafat, whereas Palestinian ministers have no similar red lines? While European and American officials decline to visit the office of the Israeli justice minister, which is located in East Jerusalem, the outgoing Palestinian justice minister, Abd al-Karim Abu Salah, together with the minister responsible for prisoners, Hisham Abd al-Razak, met with Justice Minister Yosef Lapid in his office. The Palestinian public has only contempt for such cabinet ministers.

This deception in the form of a supposedly autonomous government and Authority serves the Israeli government above all. The Palestinian Authority's existence allows Israel to accuse it and demand that it fight terrorism, and Israel can also tell the world that its occupation is not full.

In the past three years Israel has done much to harm all of the PA's bases of power. Little remains of it, and the zombie-like entity that continues to exist in Ramallah should now depart the world. This is not only an internal Palestinian matter: Israel, too, bears heavy responsibility, which it is trying to shake off. If the Palestinian cabinet ministers were to declare together that the game is over, that there is no longer a Palestinian Authority and no longer a Palestinian government, the entire weight of responsibility for the occupation would devolve on Israel.