- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 11, 2012

“God willing, we shall liberate Palestine together, inch by inch,” Mr. Mashaal told university students on Sunday, referring to the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Israel. “We started this path, and we are going to continue until we achieve what God has promised.”

Hamas seized control of Gaza in mid-2007, ousting forces loyal to Mr. Abbas. Repeated attempts at reconciliation have failed.

The Palestinian rift has pushed Mr. Abbas into an uneasy alliance with Israel, with both sides united in their opposition to Hamas.

But Israel’s ties with Mr. Abbas also have frayed as peace efforts remained frozen. Mr. Abbas and Mr. Netanyahu blame each other for the deadlock.

A Palestinian state

Fed up with the impasse, Mr. Abbas last month won U.N. recognition of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

Although the move did not change the situation on the ground, it was seen as an international endorsement of the Palestinian position on future borders with Israel.

It also amounted to international rejection of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu responded by announcing plans to build thousands of settlement homes, sparking fierce international condemnations.

The tensions further escalated over the weekend when a Palestinian security officer briefly scuffled with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron.

The incident quickly attracted some 250 Palestinian protesters. A second clash developed elsewhere in the West Bank.

Israel’s Channel 10 TV showed video from the second clash on Sunday under the headline “Third Intifada?” using the Arabic word for uprising.

Speaking at a business conference, President Shimon Peres, a Nobel peace laureate, said the events in Gaza over the weekend showed that Mr. Abbas is a peaceful and desirable alternative to Hamas.

“We have two clear choices. Nobody is perfect, but one is right and the other is wrong. We have to choose between Mashaal and Abbas,” Mr. Peres said.

Mr. Olmert, speaking at the same conference, accused Mr. Netanyahu of undermining moderate Palestinian elements.

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