Daily Israel Report

Report: PA Preparing for Elections – Again

Hamas has reportedly consented to allow the Palestinian Authority election committee to begin preparations for new elections; unity?
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/28/2012, 7:24 PM

Hamas leader Mashaal and PA's Abbas in Cairo
Hamas leader Mashaal and PA's Abbas in Cairo
Reuters

Hamas on Monday announced that the Central Elections Committee will be allowed to begin preparing for elections in Gaza.

Palestinian Authority election Committee Chairman Haana Nasser said six weeks would be needed to update voter registration in the coastal enclave.

The Bethlehem-based Maan News Agency reported two members of the Central Elections Commission were denied entry into Gaza on Monday, as a delegation arrived to begin work in the coastal enclave.

Ahmad al-Khalidi and Shukri al-Nashashibi were prevented from entering Gaza by Israeli soldiers, executive manager of the delegation Hisham Khail told Ma'an.

Israeli officials speaking on condition of anonymity cited "security concerns" as being behind to decision to block the two men from entering Gaza.

Several senior Fatah members have previous convictions in Israel on terrorism related charges. Of note, the central figure in Fatah's plans to "retake Gaza" is Yazid Hawihi.

Hawihi, 50, is the odds on the favorite to replace Abdullah Abu Samhadana as the Fatah chairman in Gaza. From Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, he was released six months ago from an Israeli jail where he had served five years after being convicted of terrorism related charges.

The head of the Central Elections Commission Hanna Nasser told reporters at Erez border crossing that the CEC "did not come to Gaza to fail," confirming that the commission would start work right away.

Nasser will also meet Gaza premier Ismail Haniyeh.

Meanwhile, senior Fatah and Hamas leaders Azzam al-Ahmed and Musa Abu Marzouk are set to meet Monday evening in Cairo to begin renewed consultations to establish a transitional unity government to be headed by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The meeting comes one day after Abbas' office announced he would be implementing a unity deal reached between Fatah and Hamas in Doha earlier this year. 

Hamas leaders in Gaza previously scuttled the agreement reached between Abbas and Hamas politburo-in-exile leader Khaled Mashaal by adding new demands, which would have left Gaza completely in thrall to the terror organization while granting it extensive influence in Judea and Samaria as well.

However, Hamas has been under intense domestic and international pressure to reconcile with Fatah and honor the agreement without new conditions. Monday's report is the first sign Hamas' Gaza leadership plans to compromise.

Earlier on Monday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met with a Qatari delegation seeking to advance the Doha deal. It is widely believed the delegation brought pressure to bear on Haniyeh. Qatar – which has pledged financial aid to the cash-strapped Hamas – aided in brokering the Doha deal.

Radio Kol Yisrael reported the interim government will serve for six months and will primarily be tasked with preparing for general elections in Hamas-run Gaza and PA enclaves in Judea and Samaria (Yehudah and Shomron).

Hamas leader Osama Hamdan said "the interim government will re-examine the security coordination between Israel and the PA." He added there is no point in peace negotiations with Israel because a "political settlement" will not "liberate Palestinian land."

Problematically, the international Quartet for Middle East Peace – the European Union, Russia, United Nations, and United States – has demanded any faction included in any PA government renounce terrorism and honor extant agreements with Israel.

Hamas has flatly refused to do either. Analysts say it is unclear whether Quartet members intend to follow through on their threat to suspend aid to the PA should Hamas join without meeting their conditions.

Hamas and Fatah have led separate governments in Gaza and Judea and Samaria since Hamas seized the coastal enclave from Fatah in a bloody 2007 Putsch.