Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House last month (Courtesy Carrie Devorah)

JERUSALEM – In a major policy speech today, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged dialogue with rival Hamas, calling for a “new page” to be started with the terror group.

“There is no way for any party here to be an alternative to the other, and there is no room for terms like coup or military takeover, but only for dialogue, dialogue, dialogue,” Abbas said, referring to Hamas at a large rally marking the 43rd anniversary of his Fatah organization.

Abbas called for “a new page, writing in its lines a credible agreement based on partnership, on life, on our homeland and our struggle to liberate it.”

He said new elections should be held in an effort to reconcile the warring Hamas and Fatah factions in hopes of improving life for Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Abbas’ calls for dialogue fly in the face of the U.S. and Israeli policy of isolating Hamas and negotiating with Fatah, which the U.S. considers moderate.

Earlier this month, the U.S. pledged at a donors conference in Paris about $555 million in aid to Abbas over the next year. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice already asked Congress to approve $400 million of the aid package, stating the massive new proposed funding was meant to boost Abbas against Hamas.

Abbas’ remarks today come about a month after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert committed at November’s U.S.-sponsored Annapolis summit to try to reach an agreement with Abbas by next year. The Jewish state is expected to evacuate swaths of the strategic West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem, handing the territories to Abbas.

Before the Annapolis summit, Abbas was sounding a much different tone with regard to Hamas, calling for the overthrow of Hamas forces in Gaza.

“We have to bring down this bunch, which took over Gaza with armed force and is abusing the sufferings and pains of our people,” Abbas said last month after Hamas opened fire on a Fatah rally in Gaza.

Since the Annapolis summit, Fatah officials have been indicating their organization may reconcile with Hamas.

In an exclusive interview just one week after Annapolis, Qadura Fares, a member of the PA parliament and a top minister in Abbas’ government, told WND Fatah would join ranks with the Hamas terror group if it agreed to share power in the Gaza Strip or if Israel launched a major attack in Gaza.

“If Hamas agrees to stop their coup in Gaza then why shouldn’t we (Fatah) be together with them? We are open for dialogue and reconciliation,” said Fares.

“Fatah will try to defend Gaza if Hamas is attacked there by Israel. We must stand together to fight the occupation,” Fares said.

According to Fatah political sources speaking to WND, the Egyptian and Saudi Arabian governments have been moderating between their party and Hamas in an attempt to re-form a Palestinian unity government. The sources said Abbas wants Hamas to give up its seizure of Gaza as a condition and has expressed willingness to allow Egyptian forces to control Fatah’s former compounds in Gaza instead of Fatah forces immediately entering the territory.

The Fatah sources said Abbas did not ask Hamas to recognize Israel or agree to commitments expressed at the Annapolis summit as a precondition for any reconciliation.

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