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PLO Extends Term of President Abbas Indefinitely

The Palestinian president is cementing his rule in the West Bank, angering his militant rivals in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has extended the term of President Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely.  Mr. Abbas, who heads the Fatah faction and rules the West Bank, wanted to hold elections on schedule next month, but the rival Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip banned elections there.

The two factions have been at loggerheads since 2007, when Hamas routed Fatah forces and seized control of Gaza.  Hamas says it will not cooperate with the PLO decision.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the decision is undemocratic and he described the regime of Mr. Abbas as illegitimate.

Hamas refuses to renounce violence or recognize Israel and it opposes the efforts of Mr. Abbas to work for a negotiated peace.

But peace talks with Israel have been stalled for a year, and Mr. Abbas told the PLO Central Council they will not resume until all Jewish settlement activity stops.

He said this is a commitment Israel must keep according to the "Roadmap" peace plan and not a precondition.  Mr. Abbas has rejected a partial settlement freeze offered by Israel.

So President Abbas is caught between a rock and a hard place. The peace process with Israel is deadlocked and there is a deepening rift between Palestinian moderates in the West Bank and militants in Gaza, and the goal of the international community, the creation of a Palestinian state, is further in doubt.

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