Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced Thursday that he will set a date for elections in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
"From the outset, we have believed in democracy as a foundation for the building of our State and society," Abbas said in his speech, noting that while local elections are conducted regularly, the last PA general election was held in 2006.
"This democratic process was paralyzed by the coup by Hamas in 2007, which is an unbearable situation," he said, referring to the full takeover of Gaza by Hamas after it won the 2006 Palestinian general elections in the Strip, and Fatah-Hamas fighting reached a bloody peak. Abbas has maintained control of the West Bank since 2005, even though his term lapsed in January 2009.
"Therefore, I have decided, upon my return from this international gathering, to announce a date for the holding of general elections in Palestine – in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip."
He called on the UN and international groups to monitor the process, adding that he will "attribute full responsibility to those who may attempt to prevent it from happening on the date determined."
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In the same speech, Abbas reiterated that if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's campaign promise to apply Israeli sovereignty to stretches of the West Bank - namely the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea - is fulfilled, the PA will pull out of all agreements signed with Israel.
He added, "It is our right to defend our rights by all possible means, regardless of consequences, while remaining committed to international law and combating terrorism, and our hands will remain extended for peace."