Postponing the Palestinian vote and prolonging the division in the West Bank and Gaza Strip


Jerusalem – with the Palestinian Authority Called in January Regarding the parliamentary elections, many Palestinians expressed their hope that the vote – the first in the occupied territories since 2006 – would revive Palestinian discourse, reinvigorate the independence movement, and end the 14-year-old division between Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But those hopes were dashed Thursday night, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced that the May 22 vote would be postponed indefinitely.

The news has compounded an unstable political dynamic throughout the Occupied Territories and the State of Israel, where the Israeli and Palestinian societies continue to suffer from political deadlock and division, as tensions are escalating in Jerusalem and Gaza, and a return to peace negotiations appears less likely than ever.

The official reason for the delay is the Israeli government’s refusal to confirm that it will allow voting in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. East Jerusalem is mainly inhabited by Palestinians who participate in the elections of the Palestinian Authority, which is a semi-independent institution that exercises partial jurisdiction in other parts of the occupied territories.

In a speech delivered in Ramallah, Mr. Abbas said, “We decided to postpone the legislative elections until we ensure the participation of Jerusalem and its people.” “We are not giving up on Jerusalem.”

But the delay also served another purpose: Mr. Abbas was concerned that if the elections were to go ahead, his party, Fatah, might back down to two splinter groups from Fatah, according to a Palestinian official and Western diplomat briefed by the Palestinian leadership.

Meanwhile, Israeli officials have expressed concern that the elections will lead to a greater role in the Palestinian leadership of Hamas, the armed Islamic group that He took control of Gaza From Mr Abbas in 2007, which has never recognized Israel.

“It is a big mistake to go to these elections,” said Kamel Abu Rukn, an Israeli general who oversaw the administrative aspects of the occupation until earlier this month. He said Shortly before leaving office. “My recommendation is not to cooperate.”

Analysts also said that Israeli leaders are happy to keep their Palestinian counterparts divided, as this undermines Palestinians’ ability to pursue a final-status agreement with Israel as a unified bloc.

Hamas condemned Mr. Abbas’s decision, describing it as a “coup” that lacked popular support.

This development comes during a turbulent period throughout the West Bank, Gaza and the State of Israel. Israeli politics is also In a dead endAfter the elections in March – the fourth in Israel in two years – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponents failed to win a practical majority.

The situation in Jerusalem is tense, after that Last week’s rally By fanatical far-right Jews who chanted “Death to the Arabs” Attacks on Palestinians and Jews, and the provocative Israeli decision, now canceled, to close a central square in East Jerusalem where Palestinians enjoy gathering during the current month of Ramadan.

The unrest came in breaking months of relative calm in Gaza, as militants fired dozens of rockets at Israel at the end of last week in protest at the situation in Jerusalem.

The city is at the center of the excuse presented by Mr. Abbas to postpone the elections.

Under interim agreements signed in the 1990s between Israeli and Palestinian leaders known as the Oslo Accords, the Israeli government is obligated to allow Palestinian elections to take place in East Jerusalem.

But Israel did not obstruct the elections and did not agree to allow them. An Israeli official confirmed that the Israeli government had not taken any decision in either case, despite requests from the Palestinian leadership. The Israeli Occupation Police arrested a number of representatives of the Palestinian parties who tried to launch a campaign in the city.

Palestinian officials said that moving forward with the elections without East Jerusalem would be tantamount to waiving Palestinian claims to the city and its Islamic holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

“It’s not that we’re trying to avoid the elections,” said Ziad Abu Amr, deputy prime minister in the Palestinian Authority and an advisor to Mr. Abbas. Jerusalem cannot be abandoned or abandoned. You cannot surrender to the fait accompli that Israel is trying to impose on Jerusalem. “

But insiders said Mr. Abbas had an ulterior motive to delay.

The long-standing Palestinian national movement’s engine, Mr. Abbas’s party, Fatah, is now facing unprecedented challenges, not only from its longtime rival Hamas but also from the former Fatah bones whose campaigns have diminished support for their former party.

If elections were to take place, Fatah supporters would be forced to choose from three factions linked to Fatah – the official party; A splinter group led by exiled former security chief Muhammad Dahlan. And prof The second splinter faction, Headed by Nasser Al-Kidwa, a former UN envoy, and Marwan Barghouti, a popular activist serving several life sentences in an Israeli prison for five counts of murder.

In the The latest pollMr. Abbas’s faction is still in the lead, with a quarter of the votes. But it was expected to be well below the overall majority because nearly a number of voters said they would vote for open-competition groups. Hamas polled less than 9 percent.

No Palestinian official will publicly admit this week that these factors have influenced Mr. Abbas’s thinking. However, speaking on condition of anonymity, a Palestinian official and a Western diplomat who was briefed by the Palestinians said he feared losing influence with his former allies.

After Mr. Al-Kidwa and Barghouti split from Mr. Abbas in March, a senior Palestinian official said in an interview with The New York Times that the move endangered the elections because it risked undermining Fatah.

Wasel Abu Yusef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the official representative of the Palestinian people, said that “Fatah’s situation needs to be strong, and it needs the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the national project.” He added, “If there is harm to the national project, then there will be heavy and strong voices in favor of postponing the elections.”

Some Palestinians mocked the delay. Many felt that elections would not have taken place in a particularly free environment, while some had always suspected they would be canceled. Others felt that voting for the Palestinian parliament would have little effect on the biggest problem of their lives: the Israeli occupation.

Yara Hawari, a senior analyst at Al-Shabaka, a Palestinian research group, said the elections indicate “the existence of a sovereign entity in which people participate in a democratic process.” “But you cannot have a full democracy under occupation.”

However, many Palestinians were outraged at being denied the rare opportunity to choose their representatives. Crowds of protesters, many of them too young to vote in the recent Palestinian elections, demonstrated against the decision in both the West Bank and Gaza.

“The people are calling for the ballot box,” they chanted.

Muhammad Shehadeh, a 28-year-old unemployed civil engineer from Gaza City, described the decision as a “great disappointment.” He said that the situation in Jerusalem was not a reason to cancel the elections: “The occupation controls Jerusalem, whether the elections are held or not.”

Mukhaimer Abu Saada, a professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City, said that the failure to hold the elections also raises the specter of internal Palestinian violence, as the different factions will now not have a peaceful forum to express their grievances and express their frustration.

Dr. Abu Saada said, “Many Palestinians had hoped that the elections would ease tension and friction between the factions.” But he said that postponing the elections “will make the Palestinians fight against each other.”

Iyad Abu Huwailah contributed reporting from Gaza City, and Irit Pazner Garshwitz from Jerusalem.

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