In another sign of increased tensions between Hamas and Fatah in light of the Palestinian Authority's controversial decision to abandon a vote at the UN Human Rights Council on the Goldstone Report, the Islamic movement on Sunday warned PA President Mahmoud Abbas against unilaterally calling new elections.
The Fatah Central Committee on Saturday night urged Abbas to issue a presidential decree on October 25 for holding presidential and parliamentary elections.
According to PA laws, Abbas is supposed to declare new elections three months before the end of his term and that of the Palestinian parliament.
Hamas and Fatah were supposed to sign a "reconciliation agreement" in Cairo on the same day. But the signing ceremony has been delayed at the request of Hamas, whose leaders made it clear that they would not be able to shake hands with Abbas following his decision to ditch the Goldstone Report.
The Egyptian-brokered agreement calls for holding the elections during the first half of 2010.
But now that the agreement has been delayed indefinitely, Fatah leaders are pressing Abbas to unilaterally declare new elections. Some have even gone as far as demanding that Abbas ban Hamas from participating in the vote.
Members of the Fatah Central Committee strongly condemned Hamas for postponing the reconciliation ceremony and accused the movement of taking advantage of the Goldstone report "to undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and President Mahmoud Abbas."
The committee urged Abbas to abide by the PA constitution and issue a presidential decree on October 25 with regards to the vote.
The PLO Executive Committee, another key decision-making body dominated by Abbas loyalists, met in Ramallah on Sunday to discuss the repercussions of Hamas's decision to delay the reconciliation with Fatah.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official and adviser to Abbas, accused Hamas of exploiting the Goldstone Report to "damage national unity."
He noted that Hamas was one of the first parties to criticize the report under the pretext that it equated between the victim and the executioner.
Abed Rabbo also accused Hamas of "serving the interests of [Prime Minister] Binyamin Netanyahu, who wants schism in the Palestinian arena to continue."
"The fate of Palestinian unity won't remain subjected to Hamas's blackmail," he stressed. "Hamas's stance toward the Goldstone Report is false."
Azzam al-Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, said the Egyptians were now proposing that Hamas and Fatah sign the reconciliation accord separately late this week. He said the proposal was seen as a compromise aimed at avoiding further tensions between the two parties.
According to the proposal, which is being discussed by the two parties, the Egyptians would send the agreement by fax to Fatah and Hamas leaders who would sign it and return it back to Cairo without a public ceremony. This way the Egyptians hope to avoid a situation where Hamas and Fatah representatives would be seen together in public or shake hands.
Hamas dismissed the call for new elections, saying that for Fatah the vote has become more significant than the basic issues of Jerusalem, refugees and prisoners.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said that holding elections in the West Bank alone would solidify divisions between the Palestinians.
Barhoum said Abbas had already trampled on all PA laws, especially when he "conspired with the Zionists to bury the Goldstone Report."
He also said it was unthinkable that Hamas would sign an agreement with Fatah while Abbas's security forces were continuing to detain hundreds of Hamas supporters without trial and maintaining security coordination with Israel.
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