The Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) has extended the tenure of Mahmoud Abbas as acting chief of the Palestinian Authority until new elections are held.
The vote endorsed Abbas’ earlier decision to call off the January 24 presidential and legislative elections due to the boycott of the vote in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas movement.
Parliament’s mandate was extended too at the PLO meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Abbas, whose term ends on January 25, says it is impossible to hold the elections due to Hamas’ refusal to allow voting in the Gaza Strip.
Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave, disputes Abbas’ legitimacy and says the extension is unconstitutional.
The Central Council also endorsed Abbas’ refusal to return to negotiations with Israel until the regime stops the construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied lands.
“We will not go to negotiations until Israel fully halts settlement activities and agrees to a term of reference for such negotiations,” said PLO Central Council member Tawfiq al-Tirawi.
Abbas’ failure to mend fences with the rival Hamas movement or win concessions from Tel Aviv’s hard-line regime has impaired his reputation among scores of Palestinians.
Ever since Hamas won an outright majority in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, the two factions have pursued bitter rivalry featuring sporadic fighting and tit-for-tat arrests.
Since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from the Fatah faction in the summer of 2007, the coastal enclave has been under an economic siege laid by the US, Israel and the EU.
Since then, Hamas has governed the Gaza Strip, while Fatah has continued to control the West Bank from Ramallah.
Israel and Egypt, with the Palestinian Authority’s blessings, have both sealed their borders with the Gaza Strip, effectively cutting off the coastal enclave from the rest of the world.
The Western-backed embattled Palestinian leader has frequently threatened to resign over the paralysis of peace negotiations with Israel, despite the fact that he has at the same time suggested to remain in office.