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Report: Abbas Planning to Call Elections, Challenge Hamas

PA Chairman planning to challenge Hamas by holding elections only in Judea and Samaria, declaring that Gaza is a 'rebel region.'
By Elad Benari, Canada
First Publish: 8/24/2013, 1:15 AM

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
Flash 90

Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is planning to challenge Hamas by holding elections only in the areas of Judea and Samaria under his control, Channel 2 News reported on Friday.

According to the report, which cited officials in Ramallah, Abbas is planning to call for elections in the PA-assigned areas of Judea and Samaria soon, and has appointed a team of officials from his Fatah movement to plan the move.

Channel 2 News’ Arab affairs analyst Ehud Yaari explained that the move is meant to force Hamas, the Fatah movement’s longtime movement, into a corner. The move, which Abbas will carry out parallel to the peace talks with Israel, would include both presidential elections and parliamentary elections.

Abbas’s term as PA Chairman ended years ago, but he continues in his role despite no one having given him the mandate to do so. The PA parliament was elected for a four-year term in 2005 and has yet to be dissolved, despite the fact that nearly two terms have already passed since its election.

Hamas violently took control of Gaza in 2007, setting up its own government there and cracking down on Fatah officials who reside in the territory.

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation deal in Cairo in 2011, pledging to set up an interim consensus government of independents that would pave the way for legislative and presidential elections within 12 months.

More than two years later, the deal has yet to be implemented. The parties have argued over the make-up of the interim government, and a February 2012 deal signed by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Doha intended to overcome outstanding differences was opposed by Hamas members in Gaza.

PA officials cited by Channel 2 said that Abbas’s move is meant to directly challenge Hamas. The PA reportedly plans to ask Hamas to hold the elections in Gaza as well. If, however, Hamas refuses, Abbas will simply leave empty seats for Gaza delegates in the parliament.

Such a move, explained Yaari, would likely lead to Abbas declaring Gaza and its Hamas-led government a rebel region. The significance of such an announcement would be that the PA could reconsider the funds it transfers to Gaza. Currently, 49%-52% of the total budget of the Palestinian Authority is allocated to Gaza.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)