Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected to accept a recommendation that he postpone elections scheduled for January, a senior official said on Thursday.
The independent Central Election Commission, responsible for organizing elections, had recommended postponement to Abbas on the grounds that conditions would not favor a fair vote on Jan. 24, the official said.
Postponement will avoid an election destined to cause a permanent split in the deeply divided Palestinian movement, and put off the moment at which Abbas has said he could choose to withdraw from the presidency.
Abbas had set the election date after his rivals in the Hamas group, which controls the Gaza Strip, refused to sign a reconciliation proposal that scheduled the elections in June.
"The committee will recommend postponing elections because Hamas has rejected elections in Gaza," the official, who declined to give his name, told Reuters.
The official said the recommendation had already been communicated to the president, who has said on several occasions that he would be ready to postpone the vote if Hamas changed its mind and agreed to the reconciliation pact.
So far there is no sign that the Islamist group intends to accept what Abbas on Wednesday repeated was the offer of his hand in friendship. A Hamas spokesman responded immediately to the gesture, dismissing it as a "maneuver."
Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri expressed no surprise at the proposed postponement.
"This is a natural result because of the lack of appropriate conditions and it is evidence of the credibility of Hamas' position, which rejected the call for elections before a national consensus was reached," he said.
Abbas declared last week that he does not wish to run for a second term as president of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, because he feels frustrated by an inability to move forward on peace negotiations with Israel.
He cited Israel's failure to stop all settlement building in the West Bank and disappointment with the United States over its failure to back the Palestinians demand for a freeze.
Addressing a rally in Ramallah on Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, Abbas said that for peace talks to resume, Israel must recognize the terms of reference.
"We cannot go to negotiations without a framework. And we say the framework is UN resolutions, meaning a return to the 1967 borders," Abbas said, referring to Israel's borders on the eve of the conflict that changed the map of the Middle East.
Israeli, Arab and European leaders appealed to Abbas to reconsider, since he is viewed as their main partner for peace in any future negotiations.
An open-ended postponement of the elections would require the endorsement of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Abbas heads. The PLO has the power to extend his term indefinitely.