Palestinians ask Europe to send monitors for elections

Sunday’s invitation to the EU was a sign that the Palestinians want the world to believe they are serious about holding their first elections in 15 years.

By World Israel News Staff and AP

Palestinian election officials on Sunday invited the European Union to send observers to monitor upcoming elections planned for the Palestinian legislature and presidency.

Skepticism remains high as to whether the elections will actually materialize, in light of the fact that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has refused to hold elections for over a decade.

The elections could end a rift that has left the Palestinians divided between rival governments since the Islamic terror group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 2007. The PA has governed Arab communities Judea and Samaria since then, with its Fatah faction maintaining a bloody rivalry with Hamas.

Past attempts at reconciliation have repeatedly failed. But Sunday’s invitation to the European Union was a sign that the Palestinians want the world to believe they are serious about holding what could be their first elections in 15 years.

The Central Elections Commission said its chairman, Hanna Nasir, extended the invitation for both the European Union and the European Parliament to send monitors. It said the invitation was given to the local EU representative, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorf, and Nasir “stressed the importance of international observation to the electoral process, particularly by the EU.”

The Palestinians are looking to the EU to ensure that the vote is transparent, and also in hopes of rallying pressure on Israel to allow Arabs in eastern portions Jerusalem to vote, despite the fact that they live in Israel.

The Palestinians claim that portion of Jerusalem, captured by Israel from Jordan’s occupying forces in 1967, as the capital of a future state. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, and it considers all of the city sovereign territory. It has not said whether Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem, home to the city’s major religious sites, will be allowed to vote in Palestinian elections.

The EU largely takes the Palestinians’ side in their conflict with Israel, pumping money into Palestinian organizations, some of which seek to undermine Israeli institutions and society. The EU supports the establishment of a Palestinian state, with a capital in east Jerusalem.

The EU did not officially respond to the monitoring request. But Shadi Othman, spokesman for the EU office to the Palestinians, confirmed the EU’s “readiness to provide everything possible for the success of the electoral process.”

“The goal during the coming period is to make all efforts to reach free and fair elections that produce elected representatives from [Judea and Samaria], [eastern portions of] Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Abbas issued his decree on Jan. 15, scheduling parliamentary elections for May 22 and presidential elections on July 31. It is not the first time he has floated the idea of elections in recent years, despite his abysmal support in polls.

Representatives from Abbas’ Fatah party and Hamas are expected to meet in Egypt next month.