RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned he may dissolve his self-rule government and ask Israel to resume full control of the West Bank if troubled peace talks fail.
Dismantling the Palestinian Authority would be a last resort, Abbas told Palestine TV in an interview broadcast late Friday. However, his comments marked the most explicit warning yet that he is considering a step that could crush lingering hopes for a Mideast peace deal.
If Abbas were to take such a step, Israel, as a military occupier, would have to assume full responsibility again for 2.2 million Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel was relieved of that financial burden with the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, as part of interim peace deals.
Still, Abbas might face considerable domestic opposition to dismantling the Palestinian Authority, since it employs about 150,000 Palestinians, a large chunk of the workforce.
The Palestinian self-rule government, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars a year in foreign aid, has limited authority over 40 percent of the war-won West Bank, while Israel has final say over the entire area and exclusive control over 60 percent of the land.
Palestinian leaders are threatening to quit peace talks with Israel unless it freezes construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel so far has refused to do so.
Abbas has said that if peace negotiations collapse, the Palestinians might seek unilateral U.N. recognition of a state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.
If all efforts fail, Abbas said, "I will tell the Americans and the Israelis, come and put an end to all this. I can't continue like this. We have an occupation and we don't. No, keep it all and release me [from my responsibility]."
Also Saturday, Abbas' interior minister ordered the closure of a satellite-TV station co-owned by Mohammed Dahlan, a former confidant of the Palestinian leader.
The station, "Palestine Tomorrow," was to begin broadcasting in January.
Dahlan, a former Gaza strongman, and Interior Minister Said Abu Ali declined to comment.