Amid Palestinian fears of postponing the elections scheduled for next May, the Democratic Reformists Movement in Fatah movement led by the Palestinian, Deputy Muhammad Dahlan called on his supporters to Protest against the postponement of the elections, today, Thursday, in front of the headquarters of the Election Commission, while most of the Palestinian forces and electoral lists expressed their rejection. To use Jerusalem as an excuse to postpone, considering that the elections in Jerusalem are a way to confront the occupation rather than to comply with its decisions.
The “Future” list candidate for the legislative elections, Hatem Shaheen, said that the Palestinian elections are a constitutional right, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas has no legal justification to postpone the legislative elections.
Shaheen stressed in an interview, on Wednesday, that occupied Jerusalem is the title of the Palestinian case and the Israeli occupation should not impose his orders.
He also affirmed that there is no elections without Jerusalem, elections must be held in it, but not under the occupation orders.
Palestinian sources said President Mahmoud Abbas could find in Israel’s refusal to allow voting in Jerusalem the right justification to cancel scheduled Palestinian elections.
Such a move would allow him to avoid bitter setbacks in legislative votes including the strong rise of rival lists within the Fatah movement, as well as the possibly poor performance of his divided movement in front of Hamas.
An Egyptian diplomat and an intelligence official said they had seen the decision, which will be announced on Thursday at a meeting of the Palestinian factions.
Egyptian officials said that the Palestinian Authority does plan to call off its first elections in 15 years, citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in east Jerusalem.
They added that Egypt was in talks with Israel to reach a compromise to allow the vote to go ahead, but those efforts had so far failed.
The official said the Palestinian factions are discussing an alternative, the formation of a unity government that would include Hamas.
The intelligence official told the Associated Press that Hamas wants the elections to go ahead but that no faction wishes to proceed without guarantees from the international community that voting will be held in east Jerusalem.
A Palestinian official said no decision will be made until the factions meet on Thursday and that if Israel decides to allow voting in east Jerusalem, the May 22 elections will go ahead as planned.
The official said Fatah is opposed to holding elections without east Jerusalem, because it would mean accepting its Israeli annexation.
The Palestinian Election Commission says 6,300 voters in east Jerusalem would need to submit their ballots through Israeli post offices in accordance with past agreements, while the other 150,000 could vote with or without Israeli permission.
But Palestinian sources confirm that President Abbas is focusing on this detail hoping to turn it into an issue of national and international public concern, in order to justify his prior decision to postpone the elections indefinitely.
If Israel maintains its rejection and cancels a previous protocol agreeing these centers, voters could vote in suburban areas. The small number of those who require Israeli permission to vote are unlikely to have a decisive impact on the outcome.
Abbas said, “Jerusalem is a red line that we will not accept breaching. We salute our people in Jerusalem for their steadfastness in the face of Israeli plans aimed at controlling the holy city.”
He added during a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee that lasted late into Sunday night, “We stress that we will not, under any conditions, accept the holding of general elections without the presence of Jerusalem and its people, whether at the level of candidacies, campaigning or voting as stipulated by the agreements signed (with Israel).”
The spokesman for the Democratic Reform Movement, Dimitri Diliani, said that the Palestinian electoral law does not give any political party the right to cancel or postpone the elections, and that Abbas’s decision to postpone the ballot, if it is announced, would be outside the law and would entail many political complications.
Talking to our reporters, Diliani added that Israel has now begun to clarify its position on the elections as it has told a number of European ambassadors it does want to block the vote. This, according to him, proves that the main hurdle is Abu Mazen (Abbas).
Observers say that postponing the elections would be a hard decision to take, because it is only backed by Abbas’ slate within the Fatah movement. Two other Fatah lists, (Freedom and the Future) reject postponement.
The same applies to Hamas as well as 35 other lists participating in the poll and who believed to share a desire that the scheduled dates should not be changed.
It expected that that pressure on the Palestinian president will intensify from the United States and the European Union, especially since the latter threatened to stop the financial support it provides to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if the vote is postponed.
Pressure is also expected to be put on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu if it is established that he is indeed obstructing the elections in Jerusalem.
Former Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, Barakat Al-Farra, said the Palestinian Authority’s position on the elections is linked to the Oslo Agreement, which gave the Palestinians the right to hold elections in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. If the PA accepts the holding of votes in all territories except Jerusalem it would mean it recognised the whole of the city as the capital of the state of Israel, as proclaimed by former President Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century”.
Talking to The Arab Weekly, Farra pointed out that Abu Mazen is waiting for more Western pressure on the Israeli government to push it to agree to the elections. He said that no final decision on holding or postponing the ballot has been reached yet,
Farra downplayed the impact of a postponement on the political situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, saying any decision on the matter would take into account the national interest.
He explained that “the Palestinian factions will not argue about a decision to postpone the vote if it is because of Jerusalem, as there is no room for concessions in any issue related to Jerusalem, as that would mean giving up on a Palestinian right.”
He added that the postponement, if it actually takes place, will be in order to give the international Quartet an opportunity to play its role in the peace process, with the possibility of expanding it to Arab parties, provided that the first issue raised is that of the election and ensuring it takes place in Jerusalem.
But analysts see the danger in cancelling the elections under the guise of postponement because it will allow the two governing authorities in the West Bank and Gaza to continue ruling without a mandate and without duly elected institutions.
In the final analysis this could suit the interests of Israel, as the situation would further fuel divisions and rivalries among Palestinians and keep the two de facto ruling authorities in place.