Exclusive: Abbas threatens to quit peace talks, revive Fatah terror
debkafile‘s Washington sources report that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas has put President George W. Bush and secretary of state Condoleezza Rice on notice. He has sent them a warning that he means to break off peace talks with Israel unless prime minister Ehud Olmert comes through with concessions by April. After that, he says, the Palestinians may weigh “alternative actions on the ground” – a transparent threat for his Fatah organization to revive the Palestinian “uprising” (terror campaign) against Israel from the West Bank.
debkafile‘s Palestinians sources note this is Abbas’ second threat to reignite the Palestinian-Israeli war launched by Yasser Arafat in 2000. Two weeks ago, he told the Jordanian A Dustour, that while he prefers negotiations for now, he does not exclude an alternative option in the future.
Our Washington sources disclose the Palestinian leader’s conditions for the dialogue to continue:
1. The Israeli prime minister must meet Palestinian demands for concessions.
2. Foreign minister Tzipi Livni must satisfy her Palestinian opposition number Ahmed Qureia’s demand for a final list of Israeli concessions on the core issues of borders, refugees, Jerusalem and water.
3. Israeli must halt all construction in Jerusalem and the settlements forthwith.
According to debkafile‘s Middle East sources, Abbas’s ultimatum was timed to profit from three forthcoming events:
First: US Vice President Dick Cheney’s visit on March 22. Palestinian officials will emphasize to him that they have run out of patience with Olmert and that some American arm-twisting is needed to make him more forthcoming.
Second: The forthcoming Arab League summit on March 29 in Damascus. Abbas is jockeying for a position that will upstage the Gaza issue, which is high on the summit’s agenda, and steal the thunder from radical Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal’s triumphal performance. For this, he needs a more radical platform than tame submission to the US-sponsored peace line.
Third: A fighting stance would pave the way for reconciliation talks with Hamas on the formation of a Palestinian unity government. This would be applauded by all the Arab rulers present.
For Abbas, time is running out with his own people. A new Palestinian popularity poll in mid-March placed Hamas prime minister of Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the lead – 47 percent to the PA chairman’s 46 percent. Significantly, Haniyeh gained 10 percent in popularity after Hamas smashed the Gaza-Egyptian border wall and escalated its missile onslaught on Israel.
Fourth: The Palestinian leader is under fire from his own followers for letting Israel celebrate its 60th year of statehood in May without discernible progress toward Palestinian independence. The resumption of a Fatah-dominated terror offensive to mar Israel’s anniversary events might quell the dissatisfaction with his leadership.