The Palestinian Parliament is set to discuss Monday the legality of a Presidential decree issued by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in which he calls for a public referendum over the national agreement hammered out by Palestinian prisoners.

The session was called by 34 out of 132 law makers – the minimum number needed, according to the law, to convene an urgent session.  

The chair of the parliament, Dr. Aziz Dweek, started the session by reading a statement signed by him challenging the legality of the decree.

Parliament member and former senior negotiator Dr. Sa’eb Erekat demanded that the chair withdraw the statement, saying that the dispute here is political and not legal.

He said this is not the right time to discuss such issues, while Israel is severely attacking the Palestinian people.

"When I received the invitation for this session, I assumed we would be discussing the latest Israeli crimes against our people," said Erekat, referring to the eight family members killed by an Israeli shell on Gaza beach on Friday.

Law experts differ over the legality of Abba’s decree and the following consequences.  Some say Abbas can call for a referendum as long as there is no legislation that prevents him of doing so; others say the president has no such powers.

Abbas’s decree calls for a public referendum over the National Conciliation document, which was drawn up by Palestinian political prisoners in Israel jails, including representatives of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.

Hamas and the Islamic Jihad declared on Sunday, however, that their representatives in prison, Hussein Natshe and Bassan Al-Sa’adi, have now withdrawn their signatures and rejected the document.

Hamas expressed dissatisfaction over the way Fatah and specifically President Abbas are exploiting the document. Its original purpose, according to Hamas spokemen, was to reach a national agreement on how to run the country; but they accused Fatah and Abbas of misusing it in an effort to overthrow the government formed by Hamas.