Abbas: PA Elections in May 2012

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas says elections for a Fatah-Hamas unity gov't will be held next May; dismisses concerns over Hamas' Israel stance.

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Gabe Kahn.,

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he hopes elections would be held on 4 May 2012, the PA's semi-official Maan news agency reported.

"I hope, God willing, that the elections will be on May 4," Abbas told reporters after talks with Austrian President Heinz Fischer in Vienna.

Abbas also said in Vienna that the refusal of Hamas to recognize Israel could be addressed in the next round of talks between the two groups.

He claimed Hamas was ready to accept a Palestinian state within 1967 borders and that resistance would be "peaceful," but Hamas officials - including politburo chief Khaled Mashaal himself - have said any peace agreement with Israel would only serve as a prelude to war.

Abbas' comments come on the heels of reconciliation talks last week in Cairo with Mashaal aimed at cementing a stalled unity deal signed six months ago. For the past two years Abbas has refused to hold elections, despite his term in office having expired.

In Cairo, Abbas and Mashaal hailed a new era of cooperation and approved a two-page document reiterating their commitment to the main elements of the original unity deal.

"The interim government will be made up of technocrats and independent members. ... This will not be a government of either Fatah or of Hamas, but an independent one," Abbas said.

However, regional observers note key points of dispute concerning the future direction of the PA were not resolved during the Cairo meeting and could scuttle Abbas’ unity bid.

Foremost among those disputes, they note, is Hamas’ refusal to honor bilateral agreements between Ramallah and Jerusalem and seeking a negotiated settlement with Israel. Hamas, they note, currently enjoys greater popularity than their Fatah rivals in Ramallah and are likely to sweep the coming parliamentary elections.

Officials in Jerusalem have said the rapprochement is unacceptable, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman on Thursday saying the closer Abbas gets to Hamas, "the further he moves away from peace."

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Saturday that Israel should cut water and power supplies to Hamas-run Gaza, saying a Fatah-Hamas unity government "would transform the Palestinian Authority into a terrorist authority."

Israel has already frozen the transfer of tax revenues -- amounting to some $100 million per month - to the cash-strapped PA saying its unilateral bid for a state based on the pre-1967 lines at the United Nations is a violation of the very bilateral agreements that govern contacts and cooperation between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

The United States and the European Union have also said they will not work with a government that includes Hamas unless the Islamists recognize Israel, renounce violence, and agree to abide by previous Israeli-PA agreements.