PA calls elections, chief negotiator Erekat resigns


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority said it will hold elections by September in what is being seen as a response to the political upheaval in Egypt.

The decision to have parliamentary and presidential elections was announced Saturday in the West Bank city of Ramallah. It followed a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is led by PA President Mahmoud Abbas and oversees the Palestinian Authority.

Hamas rejected the announcement and said it would not participate in the elections.

"Hamas will not take part in this election," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said. "We will not give it legitimacy. And we will not recognize the results."

Taysir Khaled, a member of the PLO’s executive committee in Ramallah, told The Washington Post that the decision to hold elections "is not connected in a direct way to what happened in Egypt.” 

"But," he added, "you have to understand we are affected by how things are around us. We do respect the wishes and the demands of the Egyptian people."

Also Saturday during the PLO meeting, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned his position. Abbas accepted the resignation, according to The New York Times. Erekat has been part of the negotiating team for nearly 20 years.

He reportedly resigned due to the fallout over more than 1,600 leaked internal memos detailing negotiating sessions with Israel, which indicated that Palestinian peace negotiators were willing to turn over nearly all of the Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem and accept a shared authority of the Temple Mount. In one document, Erekat told U.S. officials that the Palestinians were giving Israel "the biggest Yerushalayim in history."

The documents reportedly were stolen from Erekat’s office. Erekat told Israel’s Army Radio that he is stepping down to take responsibility for the leak of the documents.

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