Talk or you try running the West Bank, Abbas tells Netanyahu
"Once the new government in Israel is in place, Netanyahu will have to decide - yes or no" ... Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. Photo: Reuters
JERUSALEM: The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has warned he will disband his Palestinian Authority if there is no Israeli movement towards renewing peace talks after Israel's elections on January 22.
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Mr Abbas said that if such a situation arose he would hand full responsibility for the occupied West Bank to the Israeli government.
''If there is no progress even after the election I will take the phone and call [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu,'' Mr Abbas said. ''I'll tell him … Sit in the chair here instead of me, take the keys, and you will be responsible for the Palestinian Authority.
''Once the new government in Israel is in place, Netanyahu will have to decide - yes or no,'' Mr Abbas said.
Talks have been on hold since September 2010, with the Palestinians insisting on a settlement freeze before returning to the negotiating table and the Israelis insisting on no preconditions. Following last month's United Nations vote giving the Palestinians upgraded status in the world body, Israel announced a new spate of settlement-building in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
Mr Abbas said Israel had also reduced security co-ordination with Palestinian forces in the West Bank. He would be willing to renew negotiations with Mr Netanyahu after the election, he said, but would demand that Israel freeze further settlement construction while they were held, renew the transfer of Palestinian tax revenue Israel has been withholding and release 120 long-term Palestinian prisoners.
''These are not preconditions, these are commitments Israel already took upon itself in the past,'' he told Haaretz.
In a further escalation of tension Hamas has banned Palestinian journalists in Gaza from working with or giving interviews to the Israeli media.
It has also instructed its own government officials not to give interviews to Israeli press or television. Since the Israeli government banned Israeli journalists from entering Gaza in 2006, citing security reasons, its media has depended on Palestinian or international journalists for reports from inside the enclave.
The foreign news editor of Ma'ariv, Matan Drori, said the move was ''very unfortunate''.
''It is important for Israelis to understand the motivations and behaviour of the other side, and perhaps also as a way of building bridges for the future.
''It will be a major loss not to have an authentic voice from inside Gaza,'' he said.
Sami Ajrami, who has been Ma'ariv's correspondent in Gaza for 18 months, said he was disappointed by the ban.
''The Israeli public should know what's happening in Gaza,'' he said. ''This is not good for the Palestinian cause.''
AFP; Guardian News & Media