Palestinians to push statehood case, Hamas popularity surges

The discussions with Kerry will focus on establishing "a timeframe for ending Israel's occupation to be agreed as soon as possible and not after the end of this year", said a Palestinian official

Palestinians to push statehood case, Hamas popularity surges

World Bulletin/News Desk

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will present plans to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday calling for a time table on ending Israel's occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Palestinian officials said.

Erekat and intelligence chief Majid Faraj will hold a series of meetings with senior officials in Washington in which they will press the case for Palestinian statehood, amid frustration after a year of talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas collapsed in April.

The discussions with Kerry will focus on establishing "a timeframe for ending Israel's occupation to be agreed as soon as possible and not after the end of this year", said a Palestinian official familiar with the plan Erekat will lay out.

In an interview with Palestinian TV last week, Abbas said it should only take "half an hour or an hour" to delineate the borders of a Palestinian state, since the United States agreed they should be based on the 1967 borders that existed before the war in which Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

"There's either a political solution or there isn't," he said. "But going here and there, up and down, talking and not talking - it's been 20 years and nothing has happened."

If there is no agreement on borders in coming months - at least by the end of the year - Abbas said he would have no choice but to push ahead with unilateral statehood moves, a threat he has made before and carried out incrementally.

The first step would be to seek a resolution in the United Nations Security Council calling for a deadline for ending Israel's 47-year occupation of Palestinian territory.

If it were drafted, such a resolution would probably be vetoed by the United States, which has said it wants only a negotiated solution to the conflict.

Anticipating that veto, the Palestinians say they would then push ahead with plans to join the International Criminal Court, which could open the way for proceedings against Israel. They would also sign up to a range of international treaties and organisations that help denote statehood.

"We ask the Security Council, I want a political solution, meaning two things: the 1967 borders and ending the occupation over a set period lasting as little time as possible, and that's the end of it," Abbas told Palestinian TV.

Israel accepts the idea of a 'two-state solution' - meaning an independent and democratic Palestinian state living alongside Israel - but has not accepted the 1967 borders as the basis for final negotiations, citing security and other concerns.

It is not clear when negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians might resume. They broke off in April after Abbas took steps towards forming a unity government with the Hamas, which is dominant in Gaza.

Tensions between Hamas and Abbas's more secular Fatah party have only increased since, while opinion polls show that Hamas is now preferred by most Palestinians.

HAMAS POPULARITY

Hamas would sweep Palestinian elections if they were held today after its support soared during seven weeks of war with Israel in Gaza, an opinion poll published on Tuesday found.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research said the poll showed Hamas clearly leading presidential and parliamentary polls for the first time since Palestinans last voted eight years ago, when Hamas won power in Gaza.

Most Palestinians surveyed said they preferred Hamas's strategy of armed struggle against Israel rather than peace negotiations, which are favoured by Fatah, once the dominant Palestinian political movement and one backed by the West.

The views, collected among over 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, show an unprecedented popular shift towards Hamas as tensions with Fatah boil.

Hamas's former premier Ismail Haniyeh would win 61 percent of votes in a two-way race against Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with the Fatah chief taking just 32 percent of the vote, the survey found.

More than half (53 percent) of respondents said an armed approach would help gain a Palestinian state, as opposed to 20 percent who said they supported non-violent means.

Fatah, a largely secular party that governs from Ramallah in the West Bank, accused Hamas on Saturday of putting hundreds of its supporters in Gaza under house arrest during the war and shooting at those who tried to flee Israeli bombings.

The two parties fought street battles in Gaza in 2007, a year after Hamas won parliamentary polls. The fighting left hundreds dead and hardened animosity between the parties.

There have been no national elections since the split and there are no plans for any despite steps taken in April to forge a unity government, including a consensus on policies.

Ensconced in Gaza, Hamas has waged three wars against Israel while Fatah has pursued on-off talks, mediated by the United States, which have so far failed to secure an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Suspicion between Fatah and Hamas grew earlier this month after Israel's internal security service said it foiled a Hamas plot to launch a coup in the West Bank. Abbas has called for an investigation, while Hamas denies any plot.

A rare rally by thousands of Hamas supporters in Ramallah on Saturday passed without incident under the watchful eyes of plain-clothes Fatah forces, although the group complained that several of its backers were arrested afterwards.

Last Mod: 02 Eylül 2014, 16:56
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