Abbas Threatens Referendum on Palestinian State
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has announced he will call for a referendum on an Israeli proposal for a Palestinian state if Hamas does not agree to it within ten days.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he will call a national referendum on accepting a Palestinian state alongside Israel if Hamas does not agree to the idea within 10 days. Abbas’ surprise announcement was a political gamble that could either help resolve the Palestinians’ internal deadlock or lead them into a deeper crisis with the militant Hamas group.
Such a vote would effectively ask Palestinians to give implicit recognition to Israel by accepting a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel in 1967. Approval of the 18-point plan would provide a way out of the impasse over acceptance of Israel, which has led to an international freeze on aid to the Hamas-led government.
Hamas officials were divided over the idea of a referendum, with several giving their blessing, but others dismissing it as an attempt to undercut the Hamas-led government. A referendum, which Palestinian pollsters expect to pass, could provide cover for the militants to moderate without appearing to succumb to Western pressure. Such a vote could also renew pressure on Israel to return to the negotiating table rather than imposing borders on the Palestinians.
This is a brilliant stroke by Abbas. At best, it could be a great leap forward in the so-called “peace process” with Israel. A two state solution is the only practical one. At worst, it could escalate Palestine’s slide toward civil war. While tragic, that would at least bring the issue to a head and resolve it one way or the other.