The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) indefinitely extended Mahmoud Abbas' term as Palestinian president on Wednesday and endorsed his refusal to negotiate with Israel unless it freezes all settlement construction in the West Bank. The extension ensures that Abbas' government continue to function until elections can be held in "the entire homeland," said Central Council member Saleh Rafat.
In Gaza, Hamas criticized Wednesday's PLO vote as "a confiscation of democracy." "The Central Council is not elected and illegal, and all of its decisions are illegal and not binding on our people," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said, according to the AP.
In an interview published Wednesday, the Palestinian leader said that Israel and the Palestinians could reach a comprehensive peace deal within six months if Israel completely froze settlement construction. Abbas told the Israeli daily Haaretz that he proposed the six-month freeze to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in a pair of a recent telephone conversations.
"I suggested to him (Barak) three weeks ago that Israel freeze all construction in the settlements for six months, including east Jerusalem," Abbas told the Israeli daily. "During this time we can get back to the table and even complete talks on a final status agreement. I have yet to receive an answer."