RAMALLAH (AFP) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday urged his Fateh party to think carefully about where the Palestinians are headed and the future of the Palestinian Authority.
In a speech to party’s revolutionary council, meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas said it was important to address concerns that the Palestinian Authority had become defunct.
“Where are we going? That’s what I said to [US] President [Barack] Obama,” he said, according to a text of his address.
He said the council would discuss the next steps in the Palestinian bid for state membership of the United Nations, as well as a peace talks proposal from the international Quartet and the future of the Palestinian Authority.
Created in 1994 after the signing of the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was intended to prepare for the creation of a Palestinian state after a final peace deal with Israel.
But with talks on hold and the Palestinians instead pursuing state membership at the UN, questions have increasingly been raised about the purpose of the PA.
“The people and Palestinian institutions are asking what the point of its continued existence is,” Abbas said.
“We want to respond to this question, which will be one of the subjects we will discuss with our brother Khaled Meshaal, the Hamas chief,” he added, referring to talks he is scheduled to hold with the Islamist leader.
Abbas and other senior Palestinians have said that if peace talks remain stalled, they might consider dismantling the PA entirely, although no serious steps towards doing so appear to have been taken.
Abbas also told the council, which is meeting through Friday, that he was determined to pursue full membership for a Palestinian state at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) despite a brewing storm over the issue.
The organisation is expected to approve the membership bid, which comes in parallel to Palestinian attempts to gain state membership at the United Nations, despite Israeli and US opposition.
US law requires Washington to cut funding to UNESCO if it accepts the Palestinian bid, which could seriously hamper the organisation’s work.
But Abbas said Thursday he saw “no justification” for abandoning the bid.
“We will not renounce the demand for Palestine to become a member of UNESCO, where the battle is very intense,” he said.
Israel’s envoy to UNESCO, Education Minister Gideon Saar, met the organisation’s head on Thursday in an attempt to head off the bid.
Saar called the Palestinian bid “part of the Palestinians’ continuing effort to circumvent direct negotiations between the sides, which will only push peace and an end to the conflict further away,” an education ministry statement said.
Meanwhile, in Washington, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday urged the Congress not to cut security aid to the PA, warning that hardliners such as Hamas could fill a vacuum.
Pro-Israel US lawmakers recently froze some $200 million in economic aid to the Palestinians after leader Mahmoud Abbas sought statehood at the United Nations, although they did not hit security funding.
“I will certainly underscore publicly again our strong preference that aid not be cut, particularly aid for the security forces,” Clinton told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in response to a question.
“I would hope as the Congress considers these issues that we will consult closely and that there be a real recognition that we don’t want unintended consequences,” she said.
“We certainly don’t want the collapse of the Palestinian Authority and a vacuum that could then be filled by radicals like Hamas,” she said.