(photo credit: Associated Press)
An emergency meeting of the Fatah central committee that was supposed to take place in Jordan on Monday was cancelled at the last minute due to sharp differences between the committee members, Palestinian Authority officials said.
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who was supposed to chair the meeting, left Amman abruptly and headed back to his office in Ramallah shortly before the committee was scheduled to convene.
The meeting of the key decision-making body was originally called to discuss ways of resolving the aggravating crisis between Fatah and Hamas and the failure of efforts to form a Palestinian unity government.
Sources close to Abbas said he was hoping to win the backing of the committee members for his plan to fire the Hamas-led government, dissolve the Palestinian Legislative Council and call new elections.
"The meeting has been called off because of differences between Abbas and a number of Fatah leaders," said a PA official. "Apparently not all the members support Abbas's plans against Hamas."
Another official said that Fatah leader Farouk Kaddoumi, who maintains a close relation with top Hamas leaders, particularly Khaled Mashaal, has informed Abbas that he would not back his efforts to get rid of the Hamas-led government.
A senior Fatah operative in the West Bank told The Jerusalem Post that the meeting was also called off in protest of the leaking of an official US document that pledges pledges $42 million in financial aid to opponents of the Hamas-led government.
"Some committee members announced their intention to boycott the meeting in Amman because they did not want to be viewed as conspiring with the Americans and Israelis against the Palestinian government," he said. "President Abbas and many Fatah leaders are very angry with Washington for leaking the document."
However, Jamal Nazzal, a Fatah spokesman, claimed that the meeting was cancelled following reports of an imminent Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.
"All the members have been asked to return home because we believe Israel is about to launch a massive attack on the Gaza Strip," he said.
Kaddoumi, who in the past has openly challenged Abbas's right to succeed former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, issued a statement in Amman in which he said the meeting was cancelled "due to urgent circumstances concerning the security of the homeland."
Although he did not elaborate, Kaddoumi said a new date would be set for the meeting after the Muslim holiday of Id al-Fitr, which begins next week.
Ahmed Abdel Rahman, a Fatah spokesman and close aide to Abbas, said the PA chairman was scheduled to deliver an "important and decisive" speech in the coming days about crisis with Hamas.
"President Abbas will address a number of issues, including the failure of the mediation efforts to establish a unity government and the case of [kidnapped] Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit," he said.
"He will tell the people that they must choose between achieving national unity and remaining under the influence of outside regional powers."
Abdel Rahman accused Hamas of "self-impotence" and warned that this will encourage Israel and other parties to intervene in internal Palestinian affairs. "Hamas's weakness will lead to political and security intervention in our affairs," he cautioned.
Nabil Amr, a top advisor to Abbas, said he expected Abbas to take a "decisive" decision in the coming days to resolve the crisis. He said among the options facing Abbas was the possibility of calling early elections or forming an emergency cabinet dominated by independents and technocrats.