Vote attempt to defeat cabinet, says Speaker
Ben Lynfield in Ramallah
Parliament speaker Aziz Dweik yesterday described the proposed referendum as part of a US bid to overthrow the Hamas-led cabinet that emerged from the Islamic movement's victory in January's legislative elections.
He said the US plan was being carried out in collusion with Palestinians acting against the national interest.
'The referendum idea originated in the US,' Mr Dweik said. 'The US said, 'this government must collapse within three months'. They wanted to show a semi-democratic means to collapse the government because our people did not rise up against the government. Instead, they supported it with their money and their endurance.'
Mr Dweik said a referendum should not be held while the Palestinians were under economic siege as a result of international sanctions against the government.
'Where is the basis for a real democratic environment to have a referendum?' he asked. 'There have been four months without salaries, with boycott and siege. You can't ask a hungry man 'what is your opinion?' He won't give his opinion in a free manner.
'The PLO recognised Israel and got nothing. Fatah did not get anything. Our situation is a million times worse than before these recognitions. Why should we recognise Israel again? What are they intending to give us? Israel has no intention of going back to the 1967 borders.'
But president Mahmoud Abbas' aides argue that the referendum is the only way out of an emergency situation created by the international sanctions and Israel's plan to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank.
'We don't have the luxury of time,' said PLO executive committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo. 'We can't spend precious months waiting for [Hamas] to get wise.'