Abbas to Call Off Elections, Blame Israel

by Hugh Fitzgerald

Now what seemed most likely is apparently certain: President-For-Life Mahmoud Abbas, now in the sixteenth year of his four-year term as head of the Palestinian Authority, will definitely call off the Palestinian parliamentary election that was to be held on May 22, and the presidential election scheduled for July 30. The reason is simple: all the opinion polls confirm that Abbas’ parliamentary candidates would manage to win only 30 of the 132 seats up for grabs, and Abbas would lose the presidential election decisively against a candidate put up by Hamas, or against either of his two rivals Mahmoud Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti. Abbas wants to appear as still wanting to hold the elections, but unable to do so because the malevolent Israelis won’t let the Palestinians in east Jerusalem vote. So it’s all Israel’s fault if the elections must be called off. A report on this farce is here: “Palestinian Authority reportedly set to announce election delay within days,” Times of Israel, April 26, 2021:

The PA has decided to postpone the upcoming elections and has informed representatives of the international community as well as Egypt of its decision, Army Radio reported Monday….

PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been widely expected to postpone the May vote as well as the planned presidential election in July, which various opinion polls have him losing….

What a shock to the system that must have been, when Mahmoud Abbas realized just how unpopular he is with the Palestinians. He discovered that many members of his own Fatah group had turned against him, sick of his colossal corruption, and that he would certainly lose both control of the Palestinian parliament and decisively lose the presidential race against either of his chief rivals, Mohammed Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, each of whom would win 60% of the vote. And if Hamas decides to field a candidate, too, that candidate would also defeat Abbas.

As for the Parliamentary election, former Fatah supporters shocked Abbas by declaring that they would not support his list of candidates for the parliament but instead present lists of their own. The most notable of these defectors has been Nasser al-Kidwa, the nephew of Yasser Arafat, who refused to support the list of candidates chosen by Abbas, but compiled his own, and for this display of independence was fired by Abbas from his sinecure as chairman of the Yasser Arafat Foundation. Now a Kidwa-Barghouti alliance has made public its own list of parliamentary candidates. Opinion polls suggest that Abbas’ candidates will win, at most, 30 of the 132 seats in the Parliament. That would be a humiliating defeat.

For the first time in 15 years, the Palestinians thought they would at long last have the chance to vote and express their dismay with their ineffectual and corrupt rulers. If those high hopes are now dashed, the rage among the people is likely to lead to violence. Already there have been reports of Fatah defectors shooting at the home of Abbas loyalists.

Army Radio reported that the official reason to be given for the delay was Israel’s refusal to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the May 22 elections, the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years.

Israel has yet to say whether it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by most of the international community.

The Palestinian election commission says 150,000 voters will be able to cast ballots on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, in a process that does not require a green light from Israel. And a symbolic 6,300 will get to vote within the holy city itself under Israeli supervision.

But Palestinian authorities fear that arrangement could still leave thousands of the city’s inhabitants disenfranchised….

Israel has not said whether it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, but it can now point to the Palestinian Election Commission itself, that has pointed out that there is a simple solution to the problem posed by those voters: simply let those 150,000 Palestinian residents – not to be confused with Israeli Arabs, who vote in Israel’s elections — of east Jerusalem who are eligible voters, to cast their votes just outside the city limits. They will have taken part in the elections, and Israel will have maintained its policy of not allowing Palestinians to vote physically inside east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1980.

“It is very important that Palestinians in all parts of the occupied Palestinian territory are able to participate in this very important democratic process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said….

Never mind the tendentious, inaccurate, and offensive remark about “occupied Palestinian territory” from the UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric. What counts is that the U.N.S.C. has called on Israel to “permit all eligible Palestinians in east Jerusalem to be able to vote” and that is exactly what Israel is prepared to do. It will be happy to provide transportation for Palestinians to voting sites – such as Abu Dis – just outside the city limits.

Of course Mahmoud Abbas will reject this simple and elegant solution. He will continue to insist that even though the Palestinians in east Jerusalem would thus be able to fully participate in the elections, it is important that they cast their ballots inside east Jerusalem itself. It’s a way of planting the Palestinian flag in territory that has been part of Israel since 1980. Since Israel will not permit that, Abbas can then put the blame on Israel for making it impossible – drum-roll and more-in-sorrow crocodile-tears from Ramallah, please – to hold the elections he in fact is delighted to have “been forced by Israel” to cancel.

But his enraged rivals – Al-Kidwa, Barghouti, Dahlan, and all of Hamas — will not support Abbas in his blaming Israel for what, they know perfectly well, was Abbas’ decision alone, and one which he did not have to make. It is he who refuses to accept what the Palestinian Election Commission itself presented as a perfectly reasonable solution: allowing the east Jerusalem voters to cast their vote just a short walk or ride from their homes, right over Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

So far the Israelis have remained mum. But why shouldn’t an Israeli government spokesman pre-empt Abbas and declare that “the government of Israel has no objection to the Palestinians of east Jerusalem taking apart in the elections that they have long awaited; they can do this just outside the city limits, as the Palestine Election Commission has noted; we will be happy to assist in transporting them to voting stations.”

That won’t stop Abbas from cancelling the elections. But it will let others know that he used a transparent excuse to shift the blame for the cancellation onto Israel. The Jewish state remains, in fact, perfectly willing to help those Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem to vote, but cannot allow Abbas to use that vote as a way of staking a claim to part of Jerusalem, which has been part of the Jewish state since 1980.

First published in Jihad Watch.