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Abbas Rules Out Compromise on Palestinian Referendum


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says there will be no compromise on his plan to allow Palestinians to decide whether to accept a two-state solution with Israel. Mr. Abbas has set a Tuesday deadline for Hamas to accept his plan, or face Palestinian voters in a national referendum.

A political showdown between the two main Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, appears inevitable, as the two political groups continue to disagree over the issue of recognizing Israel.

On Monday, Mr. Abbas told reporters he will not accept any changes to his plan, which calls for Palestinians to accept a two-state solution with Israel, based on Israel's 1967 borders.

Mr. Abbas says, talks are continuing between Hamas and Fatah, and that a referendum would only be a last resort - but the issue will not go away.

The two factions have been arguing for more than a week over a document drawn up recently by Palestinian prisoners representing nearly all Palestinian factions.

The 18-point document offers an outline for Palestinians to accept a two-state solution with Israel. Even though Hamas prisoners agreed to the document, Hamas officials who now control the Palestinian government reject it. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel, and has sponsored numerous terrorist attacks against the Jewish state.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, says a referendum would be unconstitutional, because local laws do not permit holding national referendums.

Close aides to President Abbas, who heads Fatah, say, because the referendum would be non-binding, there should be no legal restrictions on holding it. He says polls show that a majority of Palestinians support the idea of a two-state solution with Israel.

Meanwhile, insecurity in the Palestinian territories, especially in the Gaza Strip, worsened on Monday, as gunmen stormed a Palestinian television station, whose employees are considered loyal to President Abbas' Fatah Party.

Earlier in the day, hundreds of employees of the Palestinian Authority crowded into a bank in Gaza, demanding to be paid back wages. Most employees of the Palestinian Authority have not been paid in more than two months because of a suspension of international donor aid and money transfers to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government.

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