Poll date pushes Palestinian rivals even further apart

Hamas, the militant Palestinian movement that rules the Gaza Strip is accusing Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate president in the West Bank, of deepening internal Palestinian divisions by unilaterally setting January elections.

Hamas’s political chief Khaled Meshaal said over the weekend that the decision, announced late Friday, to hold polls without reaching prior agreement on a date with Hamas was “illegal” and “illegitimate”.

The dispute has the potential to transform the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah in recent years into a long-term division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, something that would deal a crippling blow to Palestinian statehood aspirations. Israel, situated between those two territories, could use the absence of any leadership that speaks for all Palestinians as a reason for not making peace concessions and the West Bank and Gaza could evolve along separate political trajectories.

Speaking from Damascus, Mr Meshaal said Mr Abbas “bears responsibility for deepening the division” and warned that Hamas and its allies “have open choices” in terms of how to respond to the decree. In Gaza, the rhetoric was even tougher, with Ahmed Bahar, a senior Hamas MP, calling for Mr Abbas to be put on trial for “usurping power”.

Hamas maintains that Mr. Abbas’s term expired last January, four years after he was elected. But Mr Abbas’s supporters want presidential elections to take place at the same time as those for parliament whose four-year term runs out on 24 January.

Hamas is wary of elections because it fears it will be unable to repeat its stunning victory in the 2006 legislative elections. Current polls show Fatah taking 40 per cent of the vote to Hamas’s 18 per cent – although it should be noted that the polls were tipping Fatah before the 2006 vote.

Talal Awkal, a columnist for the pro-Fatah al-Ayyam newspaper, suggested that Hamas might call its own elections in the Gaza Strip if Mr Abbas went ahead with a bal

lot in the West Bank. “This means we go from a situation of division to one of breaking apart,” he said.

Mr Abbas’s supporters say that constitutionally he had no choice but to set the 24 January poll now because his term and that of the legislative council are due to expire on that date and the law requires that an decree be issued three months in advance.

Legally polling can only be postponed by agreement among the factions. However, Hamas has been withholding its signature from an Egyptian document aimed at reconciling it with Fatah, still hoping it can get better terms. That document sets elections for June.

Mr Abbas’s early election call is a tactic to press Hamas to sign on to the Egyptian document, says Hani Masri, director of the Bada’il think tank in Ramallah. “He’s counting on Hamas signing, but it might not,” Mr Masri said.

*Israeli forces stormed Jerusalem’s holiest shrine today, firing stun grenades to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing Palestinian protesters in a fresh eruption of violence at the most volatile spot in the Holy Land.

A wall of Israeli riot police behind plexiglass shields closed in on the crowd, sending many protesters running for cover into the black-domed Al-Aqsa mosque. The mosque is one part of the compound known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary.

The Israeli forces did not enter the building, and after a stand-off of several hours the protesters eventually left peacefully and the compound was closed, police said.

There were no serious injuries.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Sport
Romelu Lukaku scored twice to add to the hat-trick he registered in the first leg in Switzerland
football
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
tv
News
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Print / Warehouse Operative

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Supply Chain Assistant

£16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Advisor

£13000 - £13500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Energy Broker & Sales Consultant - OTE £65,000

£18000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Long-established Energy Brokers...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower