Some Palestinians believe that Abbas, who is well into the 16th year of his elected 4 year term, is grasping for a reason to cancel the long awaited election based on a split within his ruling Fatah faction.
The Palestinian Authority is “very likely” to postpone the Palestinian elections in wake of Israel’s failure to respond to the Palestinians’ request to hold the vote in Jerusalem, Nabil Sha’ath, a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Tuesday.
Sha’ath told the Palestinian news website al-Jadeed al-Falastini that if Israel does not reply to the request, “the elections will be postponed.”
Sha’ath is the first senior PA official to publicly confirm reports in various Palestinian and Arab media outlets that the Palestinian leadership is considering delaying or even canceling the elections.
Earlier this week, a Fatah official told The Jerusalem Post that he does not rule out the possibility that the elections would be delayed or called off because of the controversy over the vote in Jerusalem.
Some Palestinians believe that Abbas is looking for an excuse to cancel the elections because of the split in his Fatah faction, which is running under three rival lists.
The official said that a final decision will be taken by the Palestinian leadership before April 30, when the election campaign period for the parliamentary election is due to begin.
The PA Central Elections Commission said that if the Palestinian leadership does not receive a response from Israel before the commencement of the election campaign period or within a reasonable time frame, it is prepared “to take measures based on the direction of the political leadership and consultations” with various Palestinian factions.
The commission said that it has provided 11 polling centers in Jerusalem suburbs (located outside the Jerusalem Municipality boundaries) to enable 150,000 eligible voters who hold Israeli-issued ID cards to cast their ballots without prior registration.
“We will not hold elections without Jerusalem, because this will consolidate Israel’s desire to separate us from Jerusalem,” Sha’ath emphasized.
He pointed out that Abbas has dispatched PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki to a number of European Union countries as part of an effort to mobilize international support to pressure Israel into allowing the Palestinians to hold the elections in Jerusalem.
Sha’ath’s announcement came as Palestinians prepare to hold the first elections for the Palestinian parliament, the Palestinian Legislative Council, in 16 years. The parliamentary election is set to take place on May 22, to be followed by a presidential election on July 31.
“Malki is now in Europe working at the highest levels to put pressure on Israel,” according to Sha’ath, who is a former PA foreign minister. “In addition, we are continuing our contacts with various international parties to pressure Israel to allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem.”
The PA has nevertheless not lost hope that international pressure will force Israel to allow Jerusalem Arabs to cast their ballots and run in the elections, he added.
ON MONDAY, Malki briefed Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès and the European Union’s High Representative Josep Borrell on the latest developments concerning the elections. Malki accused Israel of placing “obstacles” to hinder the elections. He said that the Israeli government has not yet provided a response to the message sent by the Palestinian leadership regarding organizing elections in Jerusalem.
PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Fadi Al-Hidmi met on Tuesday with the European Union Representative to the West Bank and Gaza Strip Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, and discussed with him ways of preventing Israel from “obstructing” the Palestinian elections in Jerusalem, the PA’s official news agency Wafa reported.
Hidmi stressed during the meeting that the Jerusalem Arabs were entitled to participate in the elections in accordance with international laws and agreements signed between the PLO and Israel.
He noted that Jerusalem Arabs had participated in the previous elections for the Palestinian parliament and presidency in 1996, 2005 and 2006. They voted then at six Israeli post offices located in different parts of the city.
Hidmi added that the international community should not allow the Israeli government to use the Palestinian right to vote in Jerusalem “to achieve its ambitions, which are unanimously rejected by the international community, headed by the European Union.”
He urged the international community to exert more pressure on the Israeli government to declare its commitment to implementing the agreements it has signed regarding the vote in Jerusalem.
He also complained that Jerusalem police have prevented residents of east Jerusalem from holding gatherings to discuss the upcoming elections and have arrested some candidates.
“All we are demanding from the international community is to help us exercise our right to express our opinion by choosing our representatives,” Hidmi said.
On Monday night, Abbas said during a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee, the highest decision-making body of the Palestinian ruling faction, that he was fully committed to holding the elections on time “in all the Palestinian territories, including east Jerusalem.”
The Palestinian leadership is holding contacts with several countries, specifically the US and the European Union, to exert pressure on the Israeli government to abide by the signed agreements regarding the electoral process in Jerusalem, Abbas said.
“Until now, we haven’t received a reply from Israel,” he added, referring to the request to allow Jerusalem Arabs to vote and present their candidacy.
After the meeting, the committee issued a statement calling on the US, EU, Russia and China to put pressure on Israel to allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem.
“The Palestinian people will not accept any veto by the occupation regarding the participation of our people in Jerusalem in the elections,” the statement read. “Jerusalem and its people are a redline that cannot be harmed or tampered with.”
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