PA to Put the Blame on Netanyahu for Stalled Peace Process

Lack of interest in the Palestinian issue causes much frustration among Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers.

Over recent weeks, the Palestinian issue has been pushed to the margins of both the Israeli and world media's attention, as well as to that of the diplomatic agenda. The massacre in Syria, the presidential election in Russia and the increasing tension with Iran captured the attention of Washington, the UN and Western Europe.

The lack of interest in the Palestinian issue caused much frustration among Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers. The fact that Israeli officials were delighted that the Palestinian issue barely came up during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's talks with U.S. President Barack Obama last week only increased the frustration in Ramallah.

Mahmoud Abbas - Reuters - sourced 12.3.12

Western diplomats and Israeli officials stated that despite the issue being sidelined, officials in Ramallah are planning to take a diplomatic step which had been worked on diligently for the past week. Abbas and his advisers have finished putting together a letter to be delivered to Netanyahu, most likely by the end of the week. The letter will place the blame on Israel for the freeze in the peace process and will pose an ultimatum to Netanyahu.

From the drafts of the letter, which were leaked to the Palestinian media over the past couple of days, it is believed that Abbas will emphasize that the Palestinian Authority was established as a means to move from occupation to an independent Palestinian state. Abbas is expected to blame Netanyahu for depriving the Palestinian Authority of all power.

One draft contains an ultimatum that if Israel does not renege on all its decisions regarding the Palestinian issue since 2000, stop settlement building, release prisoners and recognize two states based on pre-1967 borders, the Palestinian Authority will demand that international law be fully applied to the West Bank. Behind the legalese is the step-by-step dismantling of the Palestinian Authority, and the return of authority back to Israel. Israel will have to bear with the cost of the occupation, threaten the Palestinians.

The letter worries Washington, Amman and Jerusalem. Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Joudah visited Washington earlier this month and met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Joudah is also conducting regular phone calls with Netanyahu's adviser Isaac Molho. Upon his return from Washington, Joudah immediately traveled to Ramallah, where he passed along a letter from King Abdullah II.

According to Israeli officials and Western diplomats, both the Jordanians and the Americans are putting heavy pressure on Abbas to shelve the letter, or at the very least soften its tone.

Washington and Amman are worried that should the letter be sent, and especially if its harsh tone remains unchanged, it would spell the end of peace negotiations for the near future and increase the likelihood of further Palestinian steps at the UN.

Washington fears that the letter will increase tensions between Jerusalem and Ramallah, and lead to internal Israeli pressure that would cause Netanyahu to take punitive measures, such as withholding tax funds to the PA.