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Is the Palestinian Authority really a 'fig leaf' for Israeli occupation?

That's the charge of Yossi Beilin, Israeli architect of the Oslo accords. In an interview with the Monitor, he defends his recent call for the PA to be dissolved – 19 years after he helped set it up.

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Oslo was designed as an interim arrangement to last for five years, until a final status agreement could be reached covering the thorniest conflict issues including refugees, Jerusalem, and borders by 1999, Beilin recalls. He says the Oslo agreement was meant to be a mere ''corridor'' to a permanent peace solution but has turned into a permanent arrangement, or "living room." He blames Israeli and Palestinian hard-liners anxious to avoid a territorial compromise.

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''Both myself and [Abbas] are in many ways the parents of Oslo," he says. "But we never meant to have this kind of 'Oslo forever' situation.''

Skeptics: Abbas isn't revolutionary enough to dissolve PA

The idea of dismantling the PA is originally a Palestinian one. Beginning in 2003, it was advocated by Ali Jarbawi, then a political scientist at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank and now the PA planning minister, as a means of challenging Israel's character as a Jewish state by forcing it to resume responsibility over a growing Palestinian population.

However, it has traditionally touched off considerable resistance among Palestinians who would lose their jobs and positions and those who question what would come in its stead. The PA employs 180,000 people and supports more than 1 million, if one includes relatives of employees.

But it also has prominent Palestinian adherents. About the same time Beilin wrote his letter, former PA premier and Oslo negotiator Ahmed Qurei raised eyebrows by endorsing consideration of abandoning the idea of self-rule leading to a two-state solution in favor of a strategy of one state for Palestinians and Israelis, something that implies the dissolution of the PA.

According to Beilin and media reports, Abbas included a veiled threat to dismantle the PA in a letter he recently wrote to Netanyahu outlining his grievances over Israeli policies. If there were no peace breakthrough, Palestinians ''would seek the full and complete implementation of international law as it pertains to the powers and responsibility of Israel as the occupying power in all of the occupied Palestinian territories'' media reports quoted the letter as saying.

Palestinian officials declined the Monitor's request for comment. However, Abbas denied he is considering dismantling the PA, telling the al-Ayyam daily newspaper recently that such a step ''is out of the question.''

Palestinian analysts say it would be out of character for Abbas to dismantle the PA. ''He is a technocrat, he is not Yasser Arafat, he is not revolutionary in his thinking. It's not just that he's cautious, it's that he doesn't have an alternative,'' says Mahdi Abdul-Hadi, director of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs. ''There is no vision for a new chapter in the struggle.''

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