Palestinian factions call for presidential, legislative elections by end of 2018
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Palestinian factions call for presidential, legislative elections by end of 2018

These would be first votes since 2006; After two days of negotiations in Cairo, sides still deadlocked over the fate of Hamas’s military wing

Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.

Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate in Gaza City on April 22, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate in Gaza City on April 22, 2014. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Palestinian factions on Wednesday called for legislative and presidential elections by the end of 2018, in a declaration released after two days of talks in Cairo.

The factions include the main Palestinian political groups, including Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, as well as Hamas, the terror group that has controlled the Gaza Strip for the last decade, along with 11 other groups.

The factions called on the Central Election Commission and the relevant parties to “complete all its preparatory work for the holding of presidential and legislative elections… by the end of 2018 and to authorize [Palestinian Authority] President Mahmoud Abbas to set the date of the elections,” according to the text of the declaration.

The last Palestinian parliamentary elections were in 2006 and there have been no presidential elections since 2005.

Palestinian security officers wait to cast their early votes during local elections at a polling station in the West Bank town of Jenin on Thursday. Members of Palestinian security forces cast an early vote ahead of local elections, which are taking place Saturday, in the first such polls since 2006.(photo credit: AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
Palestinian security officers wait to cast their early votes during local elections at a polling station in the West Bank town of Jenin on Thursday. Members of Palestinian security forces cast an early vote ahead of local elections, which are taking place Saturday, in the first such polls since 2006. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

The text also called for elections for the Palestinian National Council, which is the parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

The factions referred to the PLO as the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Abbas is currently the head of the PLO as well as the Palestinian Authority. Hamas is not in the PLO, but said it would like to join the umbrella group.

The declaration also called for the reinstatement of two inter-factional committees: the Social Reconciliation Committee, which was tasked with mending broken ties between Palestinians due to the 2007 fighting between Fatah and Hamas; and the Freedoms Committee, which is supposed to ensure political and civil rights, such as the freedom of assembly.

Wednesday’s declaration was part of ongoing reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas that began last month.

At the last round of talks in Cairo, Hamas agreed to allow the PA to retake governmental control of the Gaza Strip. Since then, Palestinian Authority ministers have begun to take over their offices in the Strip, and on November 1 it resumed control of the border crossings into the enclave.

The PA is supposed to retake full civil control of the Gaza Strip by December 1, ending 10 years of Hamas rule over the enclave.

Hamas’s new deputy leader Salah al-Arouri (seated L) and Fatah’s Azzam al-Ahmad (seated R) sign a reconciliation deal in Cairo on October 12, 2017, as the two rival Palestinian movements work to end their decade-long split following negotiations overseen by Egypt. (AFP Photo/Khaled Desouki)

The declaration did not explicitly deal with what many consider to be the most difficult obstacle facing the reconciliation process, the fate of Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing.

Abbas wants the PA to be in full control of all weapons and security in the enclave, but Hamas is refusing to give up control of its arsenal. Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel, has fought three wars with Israel since seizing power from Fatah in the Strip in 2007.

PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah has said a number of times that his ministries could not govern the Strip without full control over security. The PA has also refused to remove crippling sanctions on Gaza that include reduced electricity.

AFP contributed to this report.

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