Tensions flared on Monday between the rival Fatah and Hamas groups after the latter accused the Palestinian Authority of trying to avoid holding legislative elections.
It charged that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas had deliberately refused to issue a decree to hold the polls in order to thwart them. He said that he has delayed the decree because he is awaiting Israel’s response to a request about included East Jerusalem in the polls.
Hamas then accused the PA intelligence of collaborating with Israel in the assassination of Islamic Jihad official Baha Abou al-Ata in November. Fatah responded by accusing Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh of promoting the so-called “deal of the century” US peace proposal during his ongoing foreign tour.
Fatah deputy chief Mahmoud al-Aloul said that Abbas was the one to propose holding the elections and he has since rallied massive support for them. He spent long months trying to persuade Hamas to participate in them.
“The movement is now accusing us of obstructing the elections in order to cover its real stance that rejects the polls,” he charged
He accused Hamas of cooperating with the Israeli government and American administration in a bid to gain their support for the movement to replace the Palestinian Liberation Organization and implement the US peace proposal that “conspires against the Palestinian people.”
Haniyeh has been on a foreign tour that has seen him visit Qatar, Egypt and Turkey. Hamas has not disclosed further details about his other trips.
Palestinians’ last parliamentary ballot in 2006 resulted in a surprise win by Hamas, widening an internal political rift that led to the group’s seizure of the Gaza Strip in 2007 and contributed to the long delay in setting further elections.
PA officials have put Israel on the spot by requesting it again allow polling stations in East Jerusalem to operate, as they had in the parliamentary ballot in 2006 and a presidential election a year earlier.
Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it in a move that has not won international recognition. It regards all of Jerusalem as its capital.
Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they want to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The PA’s 2.2 million registered voters are split among East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank. Jerusalem is home to more than 300,000 Palestinians and 500,000 Israelis. The Palestinian Central Elections Commission says Jerusalem has 75,401 eligible Palestinian voters.