Abbas Extends Deadline on Israel Referendum
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas extends a deadline for reaching an agreement on a new Palestinian political platform. Abbas has urged the Islamist group Hamas, which now controls the government, to accept a plan for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel, implicitly recognizing Israel's right to exist.
Abbas says if Hamas continues to reject the plan, he will put it to a vote in a referendum in the West Bank and Gaza.
Fatah officials say they hope the prospect of a national vote on the outlines of a state will help push Hamas toward meeting international demands to renounce violence, accept previous accords, and recognize Israel.
But Hamas officials say voters made their opinions clear when they elected Hamas in January. The vote Fatah wants would be on a manifesto drafted by a group of prominent Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The authors include members of both Fatah and Hamas.
The document calls for an independent Palestinian state within borders that existed before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Several opinion polls show that a majority of Palestinians support the prisoners' document. Hamas leaders oppose the plan, saying any vote on it would be illegal.
Senor Israeli officials are calling the document debate "an internal Palestinian issue." But Israel has long opposed key provisions in the paper, including a call for all Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war to return to homes on land that is now part of the Jewish state.
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