From Khalid Amayreh in Ramallah
Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas last week warned that he would dissolve the PA entirely if Israel released from its jails Palestinian parliamentarians affiliated with the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, the Israeli press reported Wednesday.
Israel is detaining more than 45 Palestinian lawmakers in captivity to force Hamas to release an Israeli occupation soldier Palestinian fighters captured during a cross-border operation near Gaza more than two years ago.
According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, Abbas delivered the warning to the chief Israeli military commander in the West Bank, Gen. Gadi Chamni, via Hussein al Sheikh, head of the PA’s Civil affairs Department.
Al-Sheikh, a former security chief, is responsible for coordinating with Israel on matters involving the occupied Palestinian territories.
Ha’aretz termed Abbas’s warning as “a personal message,” adding that the PA leader stressed to Shamni that he “did not speak merely of resigning but of dismantling the PA.”
PA officials in Ramallah have refused to comment on the report.
According to reliable sources in Ramallah, Abbas believes freeing Palestinian lawmakers incarcerated in Israeli jails would reactivate the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Legislative Council which could then initiate a vote of no-confidence against the American-backed government of Salam Fayyadh.
The Palestinian legislative council is now effectively paralyzed due to the Fatah-Hamas rift and the collective detention by Israel of the vast majority of Hamas’s West Bank lawmakers.
The PA Chairman, Ha’aretz said, feared that the release of senior Hamas politicians from Israeli custody in exchange for the imprisoned Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, would strengthen Hamas at Fatah’s expense.
The PA has been carrying out a crackdown, ostensibly in coordination with Israel, against Islamic and semi-Islamic civilian institutions throughout the West Bank.
The targets included schools, orphanages, charities, businesses, health and financial institutions as well as numerous NGOs.
Moreover, PA security agencies, financed and armed by the United States, have arrested hundreds of religiously-oriented figures suspected of sympathizing with Hamas. The detainees include college professors, students, religious leaders, and intellectuals.
PA-controlled media has generally ignored the Ha’aretz report which is liable to embarrass and discredit Abbas and his regime in the eyes of the Palestinian masses.
Israel favors Fatah over Hamas, thinking that the former would be willing to make far-reaching concessions to the Jewish state in matters pertaining to the final-status issues such as Jerusalem, borders and especially the paramount right of return for millions of Palestinians uprooted from their homeland when Israel was created more than sixty years ago.
Israel holds in its jails and detention camps more than 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, hundreds of them are incarcerated in harsh conditions without charge or trial.
Some of the most prominent Palestinian leaders imprisoned in Israel include Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Ahmed Sa’dat and Speaker of the Palestinian parliament Abdul Aziz Duweik.
Hamas is demanding that Israel free a thousand Palestinian prisoners, including all arrested politicians, in exchange for Shalit.
However, Israel is worried that meeting Hamas’s demands would bolster the status of the Islamic movement throughout the occupied territories, especially in the West Bank where the PA “government” is functioning under the Israeli military occupation.
Palestinians in general are very sensitive with regard to the prisoner issue since numerous Palestinian families are directly affected by the lengthy arrest of their beloved ones which leaves a heavy psychological and economic impact on these families.