In a press conference in Ramallah, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, announced on Saturday that the general referendum on statehood, and proposal implicitly recognizing Israel, will be conducted on July 26.

In a decree read by his aide, Tayyeb Abdul-Raheem, Abbas said; "As chairman of the PLO Executive Committee and president of the Palestinian Authority, I have decided to exercise my constitutional right and duty to hold a referendum over the document of national agreement”.

The referendum allows every Palestinian in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to participate in the poll.

The Palestinians will be asked to vote “Yes” or “No” on the questions Do you agree with the document of national agreement — the prisoner’s document?", Abdul-Raheem said.

Hamas legislator, Mosheer Al Masry, rejected the announcement and considered it as a “coup against the Hamas-led government” and called on the Palestinians to reject the vote.
Also, Hamas officials accused Abbas of using the referendum, on the document drafted drafted by senior Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons, as a means to attempt to downfall its government; Hamas demands changes in the language of the proposal and opposes the proposed referendum.

The proposal calls for a Palestinian state, alongside Israel, on all of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Opinion polls show most Palestinians back the proposal which is totally rejected by Israel.

Meanwhile, officials in Israel objected to the plan because it endorses the right of return of Palestinian refugees displaced by it, and because it endorses the Palestinian right to resist the occupation in areas occupied in the 1967 Six-day war.  

Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, said that the referendum is “meaningless” and that what Abbas wants to put to a vote cannot be a basis for negotiation.

Olmert considered the referendum as “an internal game between one faction and another (Fateh and Hamas).

He added that Abbas will not be able to get away by saying I forced a referendum that accepted a program which is far behind the basic principles that the international community [has] defined anyway", Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.

The Central Elections Committee, that successfully supervised the January 25 – 2006 legislative elections and the presidential elections in January 9 – 2005, will supervise and run the referendum.

Abbas also asked the Elections Committee to publish the Detainees Document in local newspapers for the people to read before the referendum.  

The Detainees’ Document calls for a unified political program that aims to to establish a Palestinian independent state, within the borders of 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The Document recognizes the right of the Palestinians to resist the Israeli occupation, a right which is guaranteed by the international legitimacy.  

During his speech, Abbas said that setting the date for referendum does not shut down the talks with Hamas in an attempt to reach an agreement before the referendum date.

“Referendum is not our aim, agreement is, if we reach an agreement, in any time, there will be no need for the referendum”, Abbas added.

He also said that the referendum is not a move against Hamas or the legislative election that brought the movement into power, adding that an agreement on the detainees’ document means and end of the siege imposed on the Palestinians.