JERUSALEM, Israel - The on again, off again Palestinian Authority elections appear to be off again -- at least for now.
On Thursday, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas said elections could not be held if Hamas would not allow Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to participate.
"Elections should include the West Bank [Judea, Samaria] and Gaza and without them we cannot hold elections," Abbas told reporters on Thursday.
The announcement followed the P.A.'s statement last week that municipal elections would be held this summer and legislative and presidential elections would be held by September.
Senior Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Abbas' waffling on elections was more evidence of the P.A.'s ongoing "state of confusion."
"Elections are not the magic solution to the Palestinian crisis," Zuhri said. "What is needed is a comprehensive study and a re-evaluation of the entire Palestinian situation to reorganize it, and elections can come as a result of that reorganization and not as an introduction to it," he said.
On Wednesday, Nabil Abu Rdainah, an advisor to Abbas, questioned why no one was pointing the finger at Hamas.
"We cannot [vote] in the West Bank alone," Rdainah said. "They [Hamas] will say we are trying to divide the country and make two states," he said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum confirmed they would not take part, legitimize or recognize results of any elections by the "illegitimate" Palestinian Authority government.
Abbas' term expired more than two years ago in early January 2009, giving rise to Hamas' contention that the present P.A. government doesn't have the legal authority to call for elections.
The two rival factions have been unable to bridge their differences since Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a bloody military coup in early June 2007.
Abbas dissolved the short-lived unity government and deposed Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister. Abbas then formed an "emergency government" and appointed Salam Fayyad to replace Haniyeh as prime minister.
For nearly four years, separate efforts by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan have failed to bring the two factions to reconciliation.