Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to step down if Israel resumes building in West Bank settlements, resulting in the breakdown of the talks. Palestinian sources close to the PA leadership said Abbas made statements in that vein in his most recent meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell.
Abbas' resignation would lead to the dissolution of the PA, in light of the agreement reached by the leadership, after deliberations, that no other senior Fatah figure would consent to take his place and no new election would be held.
Last week Abbas told a reporter who accompanied him on a flight that it would be the journalist's last one with Abbas as president.
The Palestinian sources said that if the PA and the Palestinian security forces were dismantled, the Palestinians would demand that civil and security authority over the entire West Bank, including Area A and Area B, revert to Israel or be transferred to the United Nations.
Yesterday Abbas pleaded with Arab League members to pressure the United States to get Israel to impose an absolute moratorium on construction in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Speaking at the Arab League summit in Libya he said that if the contacts with Israel do not progress the Arab states should consider going to the United Nations with a demand to recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 borders.
On Friday the Arab League's monitoring committee on the Arab peace initiative gave Abbas support for his decision to suspend the direct talks with Israel as long as settlement construction continues. The committee resolved to reconvene in a month to examine alternatives to negotiations and expressed hope that the United States would pressure Israel to extend the construction freeze.
The committee's actions kept open the possibility of future dialogue among Israel, the United States and the Palestinians over settlement construction.
According to some reports, the leaders of Egypt and Jordan had sought to convince Abbas to return to proximity talks with Israel to avoid a total collapse of the peace process.
"We appreciate the Arab League's statement of support for our efforts to create conditions that will allow direct talks to move forward," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We will continue to work with the parties, and all our international partners, to advance negotiations toward a two-state solution and encourage the parties to take constructive actions toward that end."
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