A senior Palestinian official has said that he expects President Mahmoud Abbas to announce a date for legislative and presidential elections soon. The announcement will be made even though there has been no real progress in reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas; the "peace talks" with Israel are going very slowly; there has been no significant progress in the final status issues; and Israel continues to build and expand illegal settlements.
In an exclusive interview with Quds Net News Agency, the official said that President Abbas blames Hamas for the reconciliation debacle, saying that the resistance movement has not complied with what was agreed in talks held in Cairo and Doha. He was critical of media "incitement" against Fatah and the Palestinian leadership. "The president is also unhappy about Israel's stalling at the peace talks," he added.
According to Israel's Channel Two television, Abbas will urge Hamas to take part in the elections otherwise he will declare the Gaza Strip, currently governed by Hamas, to be a "rebel territory". This, said the station's Arab affairs analyst Ehud Ayaara, would see an end to the Palestinian Authority's transfer of funds to Gaza from the public budget.
MEMO's senior editor, Ibrahim Hewitt, pointed out that Hamas might be more interested in participating in the elections if it wasn't for the fact that the PA under Abbas and the Israeli occupation forces have arrested many of the movement's politicians and continues to detain them indefinitely. "How can the president expect the main opposition party, which won the last election don't forget, to participate when its main activists are in detention?" he asked. "It looks as if Abbas is hoping to capitalise on the absence of such popular personalities, which hardly lends itself to a free and fair electoral process."