Abbas’ tricky timing

December 17, 2006

This weekend Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called early elections, in the hope of stabilizing the mounting violence in Gaza. Despite PM Haneya’s rejection of the election, a ceasefire between Hamas and Fatah forces has been announced.

It remains to be seen if fighting will subdue on Monday.

Abbas has said that he had no choice but to call the election, with a failure to form a unity government with Fatah rival Hamas. The Palestinian President is thus hoping to gain Fatah advances in parliament by taking away seats from Hamas. However, the move is not without its risks as Hamas continues to enjoy support in the Palestinian Authority.

The stakes are high for Abbas; if Hamas wins parliament again, it will be another vote of confidence for Abbas’ political foes. If this occurs, it can lead to even more political instability as it will be hard to accuse Hamas of being non-democratic. It may also lead to a Hamas presidency.

Abbas’ move also puts Israeli-Palestinian talks in jeopardy, as whatever he and Israeli PM Olmert agree on, may be invalidated if a power shift occurs in the Palestinian area. In that sense, the election call is somewhat ill-timed as Abbas and Olmert are in the process of talking about a two-state solution, with Prime Minister Blair currently visiting Israel to meet with the two leaders.

If a ceasefire is possible under an election call undesired by Hamas, then it would have been possible without elections. This makes Abbas election call questionable, as it’s not clear what the Palestinian President is trying to achieve. Also, while Hamas does not support the idea of recognizing Israel as a state — because Israel refuses to do the same for the Palestinians — it may change its position if the right conditions are agreed upon by Abbas and Olmert. And if divisions between Fatah and Hamas persist, a referendum could be held instead of elections, because the future of the Palestinian state should not be about rival factions.

The positive about the election call is that in this crucial time for the future of the Palestinian territories, there will be a platform for public dialogue with Hamas and Fatah making their positions clear to the Palestinian people.

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One Response to “Abbas’ tricky timing”

  1. lightcontrast Says:

    In the last article I posted, Rice called for supplying weapons to Palestinians to help out in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Will Bush go for it? I’m not sure how much he wants to help out.


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