Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stated that no vote will be possible without the participation of East Jerusalem residents. But with only one and a half months left until Palestinians go to the polls, the issue of the disputed city has not been resolved yet, with Israel remaining silent on whether it will allow those elections.
A European delegation is set to visit Ramallah this week in a bid to mull over placing its observers in the upcoming parliamentary race set for 22 May, an Israeli news website reported.
This comes just weeks after the European Union sent Israel an official request to let the bloc’s observers into the country, a plea that hasn’t been answered yet.
Netanyahu ‘Dragging His Feet’
Elias Zananiri, a Ramallah-based Palestinian Liberation Organisation senior member, says the bloc is unlikely to get any “clear-cut” response from officials in Jerusalem, as the latter have bigger problems to worry about.
The problems in question are the ongoing political crisis in Israel and the fact that four rounds of elections in two years have failed to produce any definite outcome.
Now, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to struggle to form a coalition, Zananiri says the PM will probably choose to be on the fence when it comes to deciding on what policy to take on the Palestinian elections, and whether they can be held in East Jerusalem, an area of major dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
In the past, Israel had allowed the city’s Palestinians to take part in the polls, as stipulated by the Oslo Accords of 1993. This time, however, history might not repeat itself, primarily because of Netanyahu’s political dilemma.
“If Netanyahu approves elections in East Jerusalem, he will blow up his chances to build an extreme right-wing coalition, and it might also increase the probability of right-wingers moving away from his camp. If he doesn’t let those polls happen, he will lose the support of Raam [an Islamic party] and that means he will not have a chance to form a government.”
And when it is hard to decide, Netanyahu prefers to wait, a tactics that might soon prove itself.
Might the Elections Be Called Off?
Recently it was reported that the Palestinians might be postponing their vote to an indefinite future, with the US allegedly backing such a move.
The official reason for such a step would be the decision of Israel not to let East Jerusalemites take part in the legislative polls. But some Israeli experts are certain that that might only be an excuse.
The real reason, they believe, would be the low chances of Fatah, which currently controls the West Bank, winning the parliamentary battle.
In recent years Fatah has been losing its popularity among the general public, partially because of its failure to achieve any tangible results vis-a-vis Israel and partially because of the dire economic situation that has been exacerbated due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020.
According to a recent Palestinian poll, Fatah would only get the support of 22 percent of voters, whereas 28 percent have vowed to back the long-time prisoner Marwan Barghouti, associated with the new “Freedom” list. The same survey also found that 30 percent of respondents would cast their ballots in favour of Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, is the main rival of Fatah, and is considered a terrorist group by Israel.
But Zananiri suggests not jumping to conclusions. “The situation might still change because you cannot anticipate how people will be voting when they finally go to the polling stations.”
“I personally don’t think that Abbas should be worried. The reason is simple. People have witnessed what Hamas did over the past 24 years in Gaza so they will not rush to vote for them. Besides, Abbas is a hero in public perception for his strong stance against [former US President] Trump and his ‘deal of the century’.”