No Elections Without Jerusalem, Palestinian Officials Say
Israel still has not said whether it will allow east Jerusalem Palestinians to vote, as Marwan Barghouti announces he will run his own political list from an Israeli prison.
The upcoming Palestinian legislative elections could be canceled as Palestinian officials accuse Israel of not responding to their request to allow them to set up polling stations in east Jerusalem.
Ahmed Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, and secretary general of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, said in a statement on Tuesday that it would be impossible to hold general elections without the participation of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
“Jerusalem is not an electoral slogan, but rather the essence of the conflict, and we will not neglect the rights of Jerusalemites in the democratic process,” Majdalani said, adding that “the occupation seeks to disrupt the democratic process in the State of Palestine.”
He called on the international community, the European Union, Russia and China to exert pressure on Israel to allow them to hold elections in Jerusalem.
Munir al-Jaghoub, the head of Fatah’s information department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, told The Media Line that the aim of the protest is to “affirm our position that there are no elections without Jerusalem.”
Jaghoub confirmed to The Media Line that the Palestinian Authority has formally requested that Israel allow east Jerusalem Palestinians to participate in scheduled Palestinian national elections.
“The request was formally and directly made without an intermediary through the Ministry of Civil Affairs,” Jaghoub said.
He added that “until this moment, there has been no official response from Israel, neither positive nor negative.”
Jerusalem is not an electoral slogan, but rather the essence of the conflict, and we will not neglect the rights of Jerusalemites in the democratic process
EU Representative to the West Bank and Gaza Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, in a news conference in Ramallah on Tuesday after his meeting with the Palestinian Central Elections Commission Chairman Hanna Nasser, said that in light of the restriction on travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU sent a formal request on February 8 to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting that EU election observers be permitted to travel via Israel to the Palestinian territories.
“Despite continued contact with the Israeli authorities in the past seven weeks, a reply granting access has yet to be received,” Burgsdorff said, adding that a lack of a reply from Israel puts the possibility of EU monitoring of the Palestinian elections in doubt. “This delay has reduced the EU option to observe the May 22 legislative elections,” he said.
Burgsdorff said that other options are being discussed internally.
A member of the Fatah Central Committee, Azzam al-Ahmad, told Palestine TV: “Our understanding is with Hamas and all the factions and we all agree that there are no elections without Jerusalem.”
The Media Line contacted Israel’s Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office for comment on whether Palestinians will be allowed to vote in elections in east Jerusalem but did not receive a response as of press time.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared in January that parliamentary elections will be held on May 22, followed by historic presidential polls in late July.
Also on Tuesday, Palestinian journalists in Ramallah confirmed that Marwan Barghouti has asked his close associates to form an electoral list that he will head after the dialogue with Fatah’s Central Committee collapsed. Lists must be filed by midnight on March 31.
The decision by Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences plus 40 years in an Israeli prison for his involvement in several attacks and murders executed in Israel during the second Intifada; as well as by Nasser Al-Qudwa, nephew of the late Yasir Arafat, to form candidates lists independent of Fatah will divide and weaken the party and almost guarantee its defeat.
In addition, sources confirmed to The Media Line that Abbas sent two Fatah officials to Washington to discuss the ramification of canceling the elections.
Top Fatah officials reportedly are exerting tremendous pressure on Abbas to cancel the elections under the pretext that Israel will not allow elections to be held in East Jerusalem.
Dr. Mosheer Amer, head of the Center for Political and Development Studies, told The Media Line that there is a great deal of excitement and anticipation among Palestinians for the election.
“They are overdue. But there is hope they will bring dramatic change to Palestinian political system,” he said.
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Amer explains that there are major obstacles looming on the horizon. Chief among them, he says, is whether elections will be held in Jerusalem.
“The position of the Israeli occupation is most likely tilting in the direction of not allowing elections to be held in the city,” he said.
Despite the desperate need for elections, Palestinian factions including Hamas “will not agree to take part in the elections if Palestinians in east Jerusalem are not allowed to vote,” Amer said.
“I doubt that Hamas would agree. The issue of Jerusalem is crucial for the Palestinian people. I also think other factions including Fatah will refuse to participate in the election if Jerusalem is excluded,” he added.
I say we shouldn’t wait for a permit from Israel to allow us or not allow us to hold elections in Jerusalem. We should find creative ways, means and possibilities to conduct elections in Jerusalem under the nose of the Israeli authorities
Ziad Abu Zayyad, a former Palestinian official, told The Media Line that holding elections in Jerusalem is a critical issue for the Palestinians.
“I’m against saying that there will be no elections without Jerusalem. I say we shouldn’t wait for a permit from Israel to allow us or not allow us to hold elections in Jerusalem. We should find creative ways, means and possibilities to conduct elections in Jerusalem under the nose of the Israeli authorities,” he said.
Abu Zayyad says there are precedents for conducting elections in the city.
“We are asking for the formula which was applied in 1996 and 2006,” he said.
Around 340,000 Palestinians are living in the city, according to unofficial Palestinian estimates.
Israel, which seized east Jerusalem in 1967 and rejects any sign of Palestinian sovereignty in the city, has yet to clarify its position regarding the polls.
A Palestinian official in Ramallah told The Media Line that the PA had asked foreign diplomats to intervene with Israel so that it will allow Palestinians in east Jerusalem to take part in the elections, as they did in the last Palestinian elections, held in 2006.
The PA, according to the official, is asking for at least a dozen polling station throughout east Jerusalem. Israel has yet to officially state a position on whether it will allow the Palestinians to set up polling stations in the city.
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission has not received a response yet regarding holding elections in east Jerusalem.
“We urge the international community to stand by the Palestinian people and force Israel to commit itself to its previous commitments including elections in east Jerusalem. There are obligations on the European countries and the United States and China and Russia to force Israel to abide by its agreements with the PLO,” said Abu Zayyad.
But canceling the elections, Abu Zayyad insists, should be out of the question.
“We will not accept that to be used as an excuse. We call on the Palestinian leadership to continue on its path of holding elections,” he said. He also demanded that Israel allow east Jerusalemites to take part in the Palestinian elections.
Israel considers the entirety of Jerusalem to be its sovereign capital, and cracks down on Palestinian Authority activity within the city’s boundaries. However, Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the future capital of their future independent state.
“Jerusalem is an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and the capital of the future Palestinian state. We insist to have elections and we insist elections be conducted in Jerusalem as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” Abu Zayyad said.