After the capture of the Palestinian Legislative head Dr. Aziz Dweik by Israeli forces this weekend, adding to the eighty Palestinian government officials already being held without charge by Israel since late June, government officials in Palestine, and leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have been questioning whether the Palestinian Authority, as a governmental body, should continue.
"We have to discuss the future of the Palestinian Authority", began Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh as he gathered with what was left of his Cabinet and Legislature for their weekly meeting, bringing an ominous tone to the discussion that followed, and a feeling among some in the Legislature that the dissolution of the Palestinian Authority may soon be at hand.
Said one, People’s Party representative Bassam Al Salhi, "The Palestinian parliament should end our relationship with Israel, and Israel should be charged for war crimes for kidnapping Palestinian government representatives and ministers."
The Palestinian Authority, created in 1993 under the Oslo Agreement with Israel, has suffered tremendous setbacks and humiliations since the Palestinian people democratically elected the Hamas party to power in January. The international aid cut-off, combined with the illegal seizure of Palestinian tax money by the Israeli government, have led to near-bankruptcy within the Authority, and employees who have not been paid for months.
Two weeks ago Israeli forces completely demolished the Palestinian governmental complex, the Muq’ataa, in Nablus, destroying passport records, identity papers, police records and all of the computer files for the region of Nablus; then proceeding to parade dozens of Palestinian Authority police through the streets in their underwear before taking them prisoner (they were later released). Such ridicule and destruction of government property, Palestinian officials warn, is meant to undermine the Palestinian Authority and force it to collapse.
And on Sunday, while Israeli forces were taking Dr. Aziz Dweik prisoner, a suspicious envelope mailed from Israel arrived at the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, addressed to the Prime Minister himself. Eight aides had to be hospitalized after opening the envelope, which contained a powder that Haniyeh now claims was meant to assassinate him.
Palestinian legislator Dr. Mustapha Barghouthi, told the IMEMC in an exclusive interview, "If the Israeli attacks continue at this rate, the Palestinian Authority will practically disappear. It is, anyway, a Palestinian Authority under complete and total occupation, with absolutely limited authority, and no sovereignty whatsoever. And now half of the Parliament are in prison, and dozens of parliamentarians have also been kidnapped by Israel. So it’s quite possible, at this rate of destruction that is taking place to Authority facilities, and with the Authority unable to pay salaries or providing services…it seems obvious that probably, this will be the end of the Authority. Of course, if the Authority ends, that doesn’t mean that the national Palestinian liberation movement will end. It will simply continue. But the whole Authority, everything that was produced by Oslo, could simply disappear if Israel continues this policy."
He clarified by saying, "I’m not calling for the dissolution of the Authority, I’m just saying that the Israeli measures could lead to this. It is very strange that Israel is so severe in its attacks on Palestinians exactly at a time when all of the Palestinian groups agreed on a national platform – a common document. For the first time in twenty years, we have a common political program – which is a great achievement! And it is a program that accepts a two-state solution, that accepts the Arab League Initiative, that accepts international legitimacy, that accepts U.N. charters. So, for the first time, there is a very strong basis for a unified Palestinian position that is for a two-state solution."
And added, "In my opinion, now there are two choices: either Israel continues in its current path, which can only lead to a further viscious cycle of violence; or, we go to the international peace conference on the basis of that program."
The Authority’s predecessor, the Palestine Liberation Organization, issued a call Wednesday for the possible dissolution of the Authority, unless Israel removes its forces to pre-2000 positions, releases the imprisoned legislators and unfreezes Palestinian tax money.