Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad dissolved the Palestinian government Monday, two days after the PA declared it was preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections as early as September in an apparent attempt to head off the revolutionary unrest that has gripped the Arab world in recent weeks. PA President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the decision, leaving Fayyad with six weeks to name a new cabinet with “the broadest representation possible” of Palestinian political movements, as Abbas reportedly requested.
Also on Monday, Abbas disbanded his peace negotiations team, the Negotiations Support Unit (NSU), which provided him with technical help during peace talks with Israel, after it was discovered that unit employees were behind the leak of the “Palestine Papers.” The discovery also prompted Saeb Erekat’s resignation. Erekat, once the chief Palestinian negotiator, has taken responsibility for the papers’ release.
Palestinian PM Salaam Fayyad (L) hands his government’s resignation to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
NSU’s closure, Erekat’s leave, and the cabinet change all mark another low point in peace negotiations. Abbas has not signaled whether or not he wants to rebuild his negotiating team, and PA spokesoman Ghassan Khatib has said that the call for elections are part of a strategic shift away from negotiations with Israel and toward a campaign to seek international recognition of a Palestinian state.
Supporting Khatib’s claim, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency, Abbas has said that the new cabinet should focus on “strengthening the preparedness of the national institutions for the establishment of the state of independent Palestine.” While building institutions capable of governing an independent Palestinian state is a step in the right direction, there remains no substitute to a negotiated agreement with Israel.