Palestinian Authority becomes the 'State of Palestine'

AP , Saturday 5 Jan 2013

Signs of reconciliation between Hamas, Fatah appear as president Abbas makes bold move to change Palestinian Authority to the 'State of Palestine'

Mahmoud Abbas
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas waves to the crowd during celebrations for their successful bid to win UN statehood recognition, Ramallah, West Bank, Dec. 2, 2012 (Photo: AP)

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas signed a presidential decree officially changing the name of the Palestinian Authority to the "State of Palestine." The change in name came in light of Palestinians' successful bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations to a non-member observer state. All Palestinian stamps, signs and official letterhead will henceforth be changed to bear the new name, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

The move marked the first concrete, albeit symbolic, step the Palestinians have taken following the November decision by the United Nations. Abbas has hesitated to take more dramatic steps, like filing war crimes indictments against Israel at the International Criminal Court, a tactic that only a recognized state can carry out.

Hamas, meanwhile, has gained new support among Palestinians following eight days of fighting with Israel in November, during which Israel pounded the seaside strip from the air and sea, while Palestinians militants for the first time lobbed rockets toward Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Following the fighting, Fatah allowed Hamas to hold its first rally in the West Bank since the 2007 split. Hamas returned the favor Friday by allowing the Fatah rally to take place.

Still, the two sides have wide differences — over Israel and over the possibility of sharing power.

Fatah has held several rounds of peace talks with the Jewish state and says it is committed to a two-state solution. Hamas does not recognize Israel and is officially committed to its destruction. Hamas has carried out hundreds of deadly attacks against Israeli citizens and is regarded by the U.S. and Israel as a terrorist organization.

Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal, considered more pragmatic than the movement's Gaza-based hardline leaders, forged a reconciliation agreement with Abbas in 2011. But the Gaza-based leadership has held up implementing it and has blamed Fatah of doing the same.

Fatah enjoys Western support and has been pressured not to forge a unity agreement with the militant Hamas, facing a potential cutback in foreign aid if it does.

Friday's rally also served as a reminder of the conflicts within Fatah itself that continue to dog the movement: Officials cancelled the event halfway through after 20 people were injured due to overcrowding, and shoving matches erupted between separate Fatah factions.

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