|US-sponsored peace negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli teams have faltered since last year’s relaunch [EPA]
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has called for elections before September, prompting Hamas, the rival Palestinian group controlling Gaza, to reject the move.
Saturday’s announcement was made after a meeting by the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in Ramallah, West Bank.
It came a day after protests in Cairo led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s president. Abbas’s Palestinian Authority said the spirit of change in Egypt should inspire Palestinians to unite.
“The Palestinian leadership decided to hold presidential and legislative elections before September,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Abbas aide, told reporters.
“It urges all the sides to put their differences aside,” he said, referring to a bitter rivalry between the PA and Hamas.
Ali Abunimah, co-founder of ElectronicIntifada.com, a website dealing with Palestinian affairs told Al Jazeera that, “You can’t have free and fair elections, these will be rigged elections if run by Palestinian Authority.”
He called it “an effort to restore legitimacy of Palestinian Authority that has lost all legitimacy”.
A quick solution to the Palestinian divide seemed unlikely as Fawzi Barhoum, the Hamas spokesman, said Abbas, who has served as president since 2005, lacks the legitimacy to make such a call.
“Hamas will not take part in this election. We will not give it legitimacy. And we will not recognise the results,” Barhoum said.
The groups disagree on the interpretation of Palestinian election laws and previous ballots were cancelled as the two sides were unable to reach a reconciliation deal.
Al Jazeera’s Cal Perry, reporting from Jerusalem, said “it will be incredibly difficult to bridge this gap before September”.”
Abed Rabbo said the disagreements could be resolved in a new legislative council to be formed after the presidential and parliamentary elections.
Hamas won the last parliamentary election in 2006 and a year later routed Abbas’s forces to seize control of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas’s opposition to Abbas’s peace moves with Israel is one of the issues keeping the factions apart.
US-sponsored peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis have faltered since being relaunched last year.
The announcement for the elections was made on the same day Saab Erekat, the chief Palestian negotiator, resigned weeks after internal memos documenting negotiation sessions with Israel were leaked to Al Jazeera.
Some commentators faulted Erekat for making what they considered to be far-reaching concessions to Israel.
Abunimah said that “The resignation of Erekat is an important indication that the Palestine papers are genuine.”
“It (leaked Palestine papers) is a severe blow to the credibility of the PA, and shows how closely they were working with the overthrown Mubarak regime and Israel to maintain the Palestinian split between Gaza and the West bank.”
Abed Rabbo called on Barack Obama, the US president, to step up efforts in helping to reach a Palestinian statehood deal.