Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If Hamas Says Abbas's Term Has Expired, Why Can't Israel?

Hamas seems to have the law on their side:
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, stated Monday that it does not believe a positive outcome would be achieved during the talks between the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and the US president Barack Obama.

Hamas spokesperson, Fawzi Barhoum, stated that Abbas’ term in office had already expired; therefore he cannot sign an agreement with any country, including understandings with the United States and Israel.

“Abbas’ term in office had ended”, the Hamas spokesperson said, “he no longer represents the Palestinian people”. [emphasis added]
On the other hand, Abbas claims that his term cannot end yet, based on a technicality:
Abbas argues that he has the right to remain in office for another year because the law says presidential and parliamentary elections should be held at the same time, the Jerusalem Post reported. Parliamentary elections are set for January 2010.
It would be nice to have that point clarified, rather than have one more element of the Palestinian government reflect incompetence and corruption.

The Palestinian Centre For Human Rights has issued a paper siding with Hamas.
The Fatwa & Legislation Office has issued a paper siding with Abbas.

According to this Q&A about the election [PDF] from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, the law is with  the PCHR and Hamas:
If the next Palestinian elections were to be regularly scheduled, when should they be held according to the legal framework?

The Palestinian Basic Law and the Elections Law do not provide a clear answer to this, and they are somewhat contradictory. For example, the Presidential term is limited to four years, but the date of the next elections is tied to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) election. The four year limit was introduced into both the Basic and the Elections Law in 2005.

What does the Basic Law actually say?

The amendments to the Basic Law (from August 2005) stipulate that “the term of the presidency of the National Authority shall be four years” (Article 36). Taking into account that President Abbas was elected in January 2005, this means that his presidency will need to be terminated in January 2009 in order to be compliant with the law.

What does the Election Law say?

The Elections Laws (both 2005 and 2007 versions) confirm the four year limit, but they also state that the next Presidential elections will be held at the same time as the PLC elections. As the term for the PLC elections is also four years and the PLC was elected in January 2006, this would mean that the next Presidential and PLC elections will be held in January 2010.

...Which is the correct reading of the legal framework? Which law has supremacy?

Arguably, the Basic Law, as the Basic Law is a “temporary constitution”.
Read the whole thing.

In the short term, there is no reason why Netanyahu cannot tell Obama that at the very least--if Hamas and Fatah cannot get together, Israel wants to be able to negotiate with a recognized leader of the PA.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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