PA to Fall by End of Year, Says Palestinian Minister

Talk is of 'handing Israel back the keys,' says Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash.

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Stone-throwing Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Hebron April 4, 2013.
Stone-throwing Palestinian protesters take cover during clashes with Israeli soldiers in Hebron April 4, 2013.Credit: Reuters

Palestinian Religious Affairs Minister Mahmoud al-Habash told Haaretz that the idea of dismantling the Palestinian Authority has come up yet again during internal discussions, and he estimates that the PA will be dismantled by the end of this year.

Habash, who met Wednesday with Israeli MKs at his office in Ramallah, stated, “We’re a government that cannot govern,” adding that “the PA has no problem giving the keys to Israel, to let Israel oversee administration of Palestinians’ civil affairs, so that Israel can bear the responsibility for the failure of the peace process.”

Habash also expressed sorrow over the shooting attack that took place on Monday north of Hebron, in which Israel Police Chief Superintendent Baruch Mizrahi was killed and his wife and child injured. “I feel sorry for any spilled blood,” said Habash. “We are against killing and violence, but at the same time, we expect that Israel would admonish and express sorrow over the killing of innocent Palestinian civilians."

“Over the last year,” he said, “roughly 60 Palestinians have been killed, including 14 children under age 15, and Israel did not issue a single condemnation.”

A senior Israeli official commented on Habash’s remarks, calling him “one of the biggest inciters against Israel,” adding that “the Palestinian Authority is constantly inciting against Israel.”

Talks between the Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams were supposed to continue Wednesday night, but a senior Israeli official said the meeting had been postponed until Thursday to allow American envoy Martin Indyk to participate, and to allow Israeli officials to attend Mizrahi’s funeral.

Although the talks between Israel and the PA are set to go on until April 29, all issues remain unresolved, PA officials told Haaretz, adding that Israeli reports of progress in the talks are exaggerated.

“We feel that the Israelis are talking about some progress – and even starting to believe themselves – even though it’s a lie and there’s actually no breakthrough. Everything seems stuck,” a high ranking Palestinian official said.

Expulsion proposals will not be accepted, PA says

Sources in the PA made clear that they would not agree to discuss any proposal that includes an expulsion of released prisoners to the Gaza Strip - or to any other location. Such a position, they say, was already discussed, and was accepted upon the negotiations' start.

Earlier this week, Haaretz reported that the Palestinian position on the matter was raised early in the negotiations, and was flatly rejected by the Israeli team. But a Palestinian source who spoke with Abbas on Thursday said that the PA president's position on the matter was firm.

Sources in the PA - and from within prisoners' families – have suggested that Israel's fierce opposition to the release of Israeli Arab prisoners is not security-related, seeing as the prisoners in question are mostly older men who have been jailed for decades. Rather, they say, it arises due to a fear of the celebrations that would arise in their town upon their release, what could been seen as an injury to Israeli deterrence.

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