There's either revolution or national suicide brewing in the Palestinian Authority. In the midst of an ensuing humanitarian crisis stemming from lack of aid and an only recent promise by Palestinian banks to pay government workers their long-delayed salaries, as a war of identity and land claims with Israel rages and a civil war between Fatah and Hamas escalates, Mahmoud Abbas has decided to show who's boss. He delivered an ultimatum to Hamas a few weeks ago, telling the ruling party either to accept a plan drafted by imprisoned Fatah men calling for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, or get ready for a national referendum on the issue.
Hamas refused. Abbas told them they had until midnight June 5 to make their choice. Hamas refused. Abbas held a 70-minute phone conversation with Haniyeh, and at the stroke of midnight, declared that talks had failed, and he was preparing within 48 hours to call a referendum. Hamas said it still wanted to talk.
A referendum is expected now for sometime in July. A useless referendum in practical terms that can achieve nothing but vainly demonstrate Palestinian opinion in a rigid Hamas system and flaunt worthless Fatah muscle. No matter the outcome, the Palestinian people cannot determine the borders of their own state without full agreement from Israel, or without the approval of the Hamas government.
It is a contradiction in democracy. Hamas won because the Palestinian people were fed up with Fatah's corruption, but their victory was further indicative of the general Palestinian desperation and approach to the conflict that rules their life. The Palestinian public voted for a party which holds as its mandate the destruction of Israel, the refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. The Palestinian people are entitled, and encouraged, to exercise their voice and change their approach by voting for a state based on 1967 borders. But there is no way to ensure that the results of such a referendum could be implemented as long as Hamas remains in power and refuses to give up the mission statement which won it its mandate in the Palestinian parliament.