Abbas suggests early elections to resolve stand-off with Hamas, Gaza

Haaretz has reported that “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Hamas Islamists on Monday to agree to early elections and to open a ‘new page’ by ceding control of the Gaza Strip and holding reconciliation talks with his Fatah faction. Reviving talk of early Palestinian elections for the first time in several months, Abbas said in a speech to mark the anniversary of the founding of Fatah that any vote should be held in agreement with his Hamas rivals. ‘I renew the option of early elections … and I pledge that I will do my best to ensure this election will be the product of a deep and brotherly understanding’, Abbas said. ‘I urge all, Fatah and Hamas movements and all other Palestinian factions, to study this alternative and not to rush, as usual, to reject it’. Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, prompting Abbas to sack a Hamas-led unity government and appoint a Fatah-backed administration in the West Bank. The rift helped pave the way for U.S.-backed talks with Israel. Abbas said after Hamas’s Gaza takeover he wanted to call early elections. But it has been several months since he talked publicly about holding a ballot although his aides have raised the possibility of snap parliamentary and presidential polls. Hamas, which won a Palestinian parliamentary vote in 2006, opposes holding elections before they are due in 2010, saying it would be unconstitutional”.

Haaretz added that Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said about Abbas’ speech that “It is full of incitement and words calling for divisions … There is no new initiative or practical step in this speech that can pave the road to start an immediate dialogue.”

The Haaretz report on Abbas’ speech on the occasion of the 1 January anniversary of the founding of Fatah is here.

YNet reported that “Abbas also took a newly conciliatory tone toward his Hamas rivals, calling for a ”new page’ in relations between the bitter enemies. ‘There is no way for any party here to be an alternative to the other, and there is no room for terms like coup or military takeover, but only for dialogue, dialogue, dialogue’, Abbas said, referring to the Islamic militant Hamas’ violent rout of his Fatah forces and takeover of the Gaza Strip in June. Abbas maintained his position that Hamas must restore power in Gaza to an elected government. But he urged reconciliation and called for new elections in an effort to end the suffering the Palestinian people have endured as a result of the takeover. ‘I renew my offer for early elections here, as a way out of the hell that was imposed on us’, Abbas said Monday”… The YNet report is here.

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