Thursday, May 25, 2006

Abbas To Hamas: Pact Or Referendum

Here's an interesting move:

RAMALLAH, West Bank, May 25 — The president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday that he would call a referendum on a proposal for a Palestinian state that would recognize Israel, if the governing Hamas party failed to accept the plan within 10 days.n laying down his challenge, Mr. Abbas seems to be gambling that he can force his Fatah party, Hamas and some smaller factions to agree on a broad framework for dealing with Israel, which Hamas now refuses to recognize. But he runs the risk of provoking a political showdown at a moment when the Palestinians are already plagued by infighting and a worsening financial crisis.

"We differ, it is true," Mr. Abbas said in Ramallah at a conference intended to put an end to internal Palestinian quarreling. "We see things differently, but we need to find middle-of-the-road solutions."

Several Hamas figures said Thursday that they did not object to a referendum, at least in principle.

Clever or crazy?

The proposal, based on a plan drafted earlier this month by prominent Palestinian prisoners from Hamas and Fatah, calls for a Palestinian state and a negotiated peace settlement with Israel, if it withdraws to the borders that existed before the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. The Palestinian state would include all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, with its capital in East Jerusalem.

Marwan Barghouti, a leading Fatah figure serving five life terms in Israel's Hadarim Prison, is credited as the driving force behind the prisoners' document, though imprisoned members of Hamas also endorsed it.

"We must rise to the level of responsibility," said Mr. Abbas, whose Fatah movement has supported plans along those lines for years. "If within 10 days you don't reach results through dialogue, I will take the prisoners' document to a popular referendum" within 40 days.

The NYT article notes that Israel also seemed surprised at Abbas move, and that it, like Hamas, has previously rejected a couple of key components of the plan.

Abbas is turning out to be one of the more interesting, certainly complex figures in the Middle East.

Do you think his gamble will pay off?