Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a request from Israel and the US to postpone or cancel the Palestinian general elections, the Palestinian Khabar news agency reported Tuesday.
The request came in light of the growing schism in Abbas’s ruling Fatah faction and fears that Hamas would win the parliamentary election, set to take place on May 22, Palestinian sources told Khabar.
The election for the PA presidency is scheduled to take place on July 31. The last presidential election was held in 2005, when Abbas was elected to a four-year term. The last parliamentary election, held in 2006, resulted in a Hamas victory.
The elections were needed to unite the Palestinians and end the dispute between Fatah and Hamas, Abbas told Israel and the US, according to the sources.
Abbas has no plans to delay or call off the elections, a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post. The official refused to comment on the report about an Israeli and US request to postpone or cancel the elections.
The crisis in Fatah reached its peak on March 11, when Abbas expelled Nasser al-Kidwa from the faction. The move came after Kidwa, a nephew of former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and a former PA foreign minister, announced his intention to form his own list to contest the election for parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC).
Kidwa, 67, is a veteran member of the Fatah Central Committee, the highest decision-making body of the faction, which is headed by Abbas.
Abbas also decided to suspend funding to the Yasser Arafat Foundation, a nonprofit organization headed by Kidwa.
Abbas accused Kidwa of violating Fatah’s internal regulations by forming a separate list to run in the election.
The decision to dismiss Kidwa drew sharp criticism from some Fatah officials, who warned that Abbas was seeking to expel his critics in the faction ahead of the elections.
Kidwa is said to be supported by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and Mohammad Dahlan, an archrival of Abbas based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in Israeli prison for his role in terrorist attacks during the Second Intifada, is considering running for the PA presidency, according to Hatem Abdel Qader, a senior Fatah official from east Jerusalem.
Dahlan loyalists have announced their intention to participate in the PLC election. Dahlan was expelled from Fatah in 2011 after a falling out with Abbas. He has since been living in the UAE, where he heads a party named the Democratic Reform Current.
Meanwhile, senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said his group’s chances of scoring a victory in the upcoming PLC election were “strong.”
Hamas has nothing to do with the internal squabbling in Fatah, he said.
“Hamas will not exploit the disputes in Fatah,” Bardawil told Palestinian reporters in the Gaza Strip. “These are personal disputes, and Hamas is not a party to them.”
Despite the bickering, all the Fatah leaders continue to believe in the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 between Israel and the PLO, he said.
“Hamas will not support Mahmoud Abbas or Marwan Barghouti in the presidential election,” Bardawil said.
Asked whether Hamas would run in the parliamentary election together with Fatah, he said it would agree to such a move on condition that other factions are included.
“If that can’t be achieved, Hamas will run in the election with its own list,” Bardawil said. “After the parliamentary election, Hamas will work toward forming a Palestinian national-unity government that would end the division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip].”