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Abbas Backtracks on Hamas Criticism, Calls for Unity Elections

After saying Hamas kidnappers 'want to destroy PA,' Abbas changes position and tells unity PM to prepare for elections.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 6/20/2014, 7:36 AM

Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas
Flash 90

Despite a recent exchange of criticism with Hamas over the kidnapping of three Israeli teens, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has once again stated his support for the Fatah-Hamas unity government.

Unity government Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah announced that Abbas spoke with him, and ordered him to get things ready for new elections for the government's parliament and presidency.

The expressions of support from Abbas come after he criticized the kidnappers, which have been identified by the IDF as being affiliated with Hamas, on Wednesday.

Playing the victim, Abbas said "those who kidnapped the three teenagers want to destroy us (the PA). We will hold them accountable." He also defended his decision to have PA security forces ostensibly aid the IDF search for the teens.

Hamas lost no time in striking back, with a spokesperson saying "President Abbas's statements on security coordination with Israel are unjustified, harmful to Palestinian reconciliation...and a psychological blow to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners suffering a slow death in the occupation's jails."

According to unconfirmed reports, the PA had threatened to end its unity deal with Hamas over the kidnapping, a threat that Abbas apparently is taking back with the renewed pro-unity posture.

However, Abbas's PA and Fatah have both joined the Islamist Hamas in celebrating the kidnapping, and even calling on locals in the Hevron region to impede the IDF's search.

A senior Fatah official, Jibril Rajoub, who is close to Abbas, justified the kidnapping on Thursday by saying "after 20 years of negotiations it's understood to us again that kidnappings are the only language that Israel understands. It's clear that that's the only path to free our prisoners from jail, whose numbers grow each day."

The new unity government was set to be in office for six months, until national and legislative elections are held in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. The formation of the unity government as a "non-partisan, independent government" of 17 "technocrats" has been seen as an attempt to deflect criticism over Hamas's participation, and indeed the US said it would "work with" the government.