Mahmoud Abbas, the key figure in the U.S.-led “road map to peace,” threatened to resign today as prime minister amid turmoil with Palestinian colleagues over how he is handling talks with Israel.

Abbas also handed in his resignation from the Fatah Central Committee to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, but the committee unanimously refused to accept it, the Israel daily Haaretz reported.

Mahmoud Abbas

The newspaper said the prime minister’s latest moves reflect an internal split over negotiations with Israel.

Abbas sent a letter to Arafat threatening to step down as premier unless he receives clear instructions from Fatah over how to handle contacts with Israel, said Haaretz, quoting
a Fatah official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fatah, headed by Arafat, has been divided over declaration of a unilateral cease-fire since last month.

The movement’s officials said Abbas might be trying to force recalcitrant members to side with him, Haaretz reported.

“I hope [Abbas] will change his mind and withdraw his resignation soon,” said Hakam Balaawi, the Fatah official who reported Abbas’ resignation from the Fatah Committee.

Fatah officials were trying to mediate a solution.

As WorldNetDaily reported, Abbas threatened to resign last month, blaming Arafat as Hamas terrorism increased and Israel raised the stakes on retaliation.

Palestinian sources at the time said Abbas told allies in the Fatah movement he had been isolated in his efforts to achieve a cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian war. They said Abbas accused Arafat of inciting Hamas to escalate attacks against Israel in an attempt to undermine the new prime minister.

In a May interview, Abbas said that despite being sidelined by the U.S. and Israel, Arafat is still very much in charge.

“Arafat is at the top of the [Palestinian] Authority. He’s the man to whom we refer, regardless of the American or Israeli view of him,” Abbas told Egypt’s semi-official al Mussawar weekly.

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