Saturday, December 16, 2006
Rather than moving towards a national unity government, tensions between Fatah and Hamas are threatening to tear the Palestinian street apart
Khaled Amayreh in the West Bank
"........The incessant and unmitigated pressure by a determined anti-Hamas group within Fatah, which Hamas often refers to as "Fatah's Israeli lobby" might yet succeed in persuading Abbas to cross the Rubicon. Certainly, the Palestinian president appears to have little room for manoeuvre, facing few choices, all of them fraught with uncertainty and not a small amount of risk.
If he decides to adopt the PLO executive committee recommendation and call for early elections without Hamas's consent, the resistance movement is likely to challenge the constitutionality and legality of the move. Most Palestinian legal and constitutional experts agree that while the president of the Palestinian Authority can dissolve the government, he cannot dissolve the legislative council.
Abbas, some observers suggest, might seek to pressure Hamas to consent to early general elections by ordering his security forces to take over government buildings and ministries in a de facto coup, but it is a scenario that could trigger a confrontation with Hamas, especially in the Gaza Strip, and Abbas would be blamed for the consequences.
Abbas also feels he must do something to appease Fatah and maintain his status as president. This could prompt him to call for early presidential elections, probably within 60 to 90 days, in the hope that he will be re-elected. With a popular mandate he would have a much stronger hand if he subsequently decided to dissolve the government and call for early elections.
This scenario, too, is fraught with uncertainty since Hamas will likely field its own presidential candidate, possibly the current premier Ismail Haniyeh, who might snatch the presidency from Abbas.
There have been suggestions that Abbas is asking Israel to free jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti to stand as Fatah candidate for president of the PA.
Assuming that Israel will accede to Abbas's request in this regard, and that is by no means certain, the choice of Barghouti as the PA's next president is unlikely to be acceptable to either Israel or the United States given Barghouti's rejection of any settlement with Israel that does not include total Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem.
Barghouti's views in this regard are similar to those of Hamas and his election as PA president would be a victory for Hamas as much as for Fatah........"