Palestinian rivals agree to hold election in six months

FILE PHOTO: Senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub speaks as deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri appears on a television screen during a video conference to discuss Israel’s plan to annex parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, in Ramallah July 2, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

GAZA/RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian factions have agreed to hold an election within six months, in the latest of many attempts to end more than a decade of infighting between President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and his Islamist rival Hamas.

The factions renewed reconciliation efforts after Israel reached diplomatic accords this month with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, an event that dismayed Palestinians and prompted their leaders to try to present a united front.

“The two sides have agreed in principle to hold elections within six months,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official in Istanbul, where officials from both groups met over the past two days.

Fatah official Jibril Al-Rajoub confirmed the agreement and said Abbas would issue a decree setting a date.

But he said the vote would be in stages – starting with parliament, then electing a new president, and finally choosing members of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians’ highest decision-making body.

The rivals have been unable to repair a rift from 2007, when Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and many Western countries, seized control of the Gaza Strip. Abbas’s Western-backed Palestinian Authority remains dominant in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians have opposed Israel’s deals with the UAE and Bahrain, fearing a weakening of a longstanding pan-Arab position that calls for Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory and acceptance of Palestinian statehood in return for normal relations with Arab countries.

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