Palestinians mull handing territory ‘keys’ back to Israel
Palestinians insist that Israel releases Palestinian prisoners as agreed and freezes settlement building
Palestinian negotiators have warned they may pass responsibility for their territory back to occupying power Israel if peace talks remain stalled, a senior Palestinian official said Sunday.
The official said the Palestinians told U.S. peace envoy Martin Indyk on Friday that unless Israel releases Palestinian prisoners as agreed and freezes settlement building, they could dismantle the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) of president Mahmud Abbas.
“The Palestinians informed Indyk that if this Israeli intransigence continues, they have several options to resort to,” the Palestinian official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“First, handing the keys of the PA to the U.N. so it will become in charge of the Palestinian people and the state of Palestine, which is under occupation, or that the (Israeli) occupation assumes again full responsibility for everything."”
Under the 1993 Oslo accords which were to have led to an independent Palestinian state, the Palestinians received some autonomy in managing their day-to-day affairs.
The PA is in a constant budgetary crisis and only manages to pay its civil servants and provide essential services thanks to generous funding from foreign donors.
But Israel still retains overall control of the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem while the militant Islamist Hamas threw off PA rule in the Gaza Strip in 2007 and has since run its own administration.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry nudged Israel and the Palestinians to reopen peace talks in July for a nine-month period.
The United States is striving to broker an agreement to extend those talks beyond their April 29 deadline, but so far without success.
At Friday’s meeting with the Palestinian negotiators, Indyk “had no new ideas to save the negotiations,” the Palestinian official said on Sunday.