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Abbas to handover control of West Bank to Israel if peace talks fail

Abbas told the Qatari emir about his plan during a stormy meeting in Doha that saw shouting and accusations with Hamas officials
Abbas, Meshaal and Emir Tamim meet in the Qatari capital Doha (AFP/PPO/THAER GHANEM)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will transfer responsibility for the West Bank to Israel if peace talks fail to establish a Palestinian state on 1967 borders, according to leaked minutes of a meeting he held with the Emir of Qatar.

Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar published Monday the transcript of a meeting between Abbas and Emir Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani held in Doha on 21 August. The Palestinian president told the emir he had informed “an unnamed Israeli defence official” of his plan in Ramallah some two weeks previous.

“The peace process failed after 20 years, so our new strategy is that the United States and Israel agree to establish a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital in a limited amount of time, and that both sides immediately begin determining borders,” he is reported as telling the Qataris.

“If both sides agree we will continue the talks about the rest of the core issues. And if not, we will take the following measure: cessation of the security coordination and transfer of responsibility for PA territory to Netanyahu, who will bear responsibility for them,” he added.

Al Akhbar reported that Abbas was “very angry” during the meeting in Doha and ranted at Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal about an alleged coup plot he accused the group of planning against him in the West Bank.

“A [Israeli] security official came to me two weeks ago [in early August] and told me about the cell that had been arrested, which had been planning a coup against me,” they quoted Abbas as having said. “That cell is connected to a person named Jawad who is staying in Jordan. That person reports to Saleh al-Arouri [a senior Hamas official resident in Turkey].”

Meshaal then hit back at Abbas, in a fraught meeting that saw a prolonged argument between the two Palestinian leaders.

“I don’t know anything about reports from the Israeli Shin Bet,” Meshaal is reported to have said. “And nobody knows about it. Since the meeting started, you have been irritable and I understand your anger, but you must not build a theory or base a position on an Israeli story that talks about a coup. You come to meet with us, but you don’t trust us.”

The minutes record Abbas as having responded to Meshaal by saying: “I believe Israel’s reports.”

The meeting in Doha came amid a bloody Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, including over 500 children. Abbas accused the Hamas officials of acting like they were solely in charge and said they were undermining his authority in negotiations to end the Israeli offensive.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat broke up the argument by asking Hamas officials at the meeting whether they could engage in a joint initiative to seek a Palestinian state along 1967 borders.

“We are at a crossroads and in the same boat,” he reportedly said. “The Americans and the Europeans are asking whether you want a state at the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital. Is Hamas part of this plan, and does it accept this decision? We want to tell the world that Hamas is not the problem. Rather, Hamas is part of the solution.”

Abbas is then quoted in the minutes as criticising the religious credentials of Islamist movement Hamas, saying that regional powers had urged him to side line the group.

“They [Hamas] have no relation to Islam, from their highest ranking sheikh to the youngest of them,” he purportedly said. “Many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE asked me to marginalise Hamas and were opposed to my reconciliation deal with it.”

The meeting ended amid shouting and accusations from both sides.

The Qatari emir intervened to say another meeting would be arranged for later that day.

The Israeli assault on Gaza came to an end on 26 August, after a long-term ceasefire deal was agreed in Cairo. The terms of the deal were revealed by MEE to include the opening of land borders with Israel, allowing in reconstruction material and humanitarian aid, although they did not include Hamas’ desire to open a seaport and airport in Gaza.