Palestinians enlist EU to pressure Israel on Jerusalem Arab vote

PA calls on the EU to pressure Israel to change policy and allow Jerusalem Arabs to vote in the upcoming Palestinian elections.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The Palestinian Authority (PA) called on the European Union to pressure Israel to allow Arab residents of Jerusalem to vote in the upcoming Palestinian elections, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported Wednesday.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh met with European Union diplomats in Ramallah, calling on them to push Israel “to honor agreements with it” that Shtayyeh claimed included allowing Arab residents of the eastern part of Jerusalem to vote.

The PA claims eastern parts of Jerusalem for the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel worries letting Arabs in the city vote in PA elections will legitimize Palestinian claims. It’s the same reason Jerusalem Arabs have refrained from voting in the city’s municipal elections – so as not to legitimize Israeli rule.

Palestinian legislative elections are scheduled to be held May 22 with the Palestinian presidential elections due to take place July 31.

In January, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced the first elections to be held in over 15 years.

Following the previous elections that were won by the Hamas terror group, Abbas and his Fatah party refused to concede power following which Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a bloody military coup. With the two sides at each other’s throats for years, neither side wanted elections until now.

“Elections are the gateway to ending the division and renewing democracy,” Shtayyeh said, telling the EU diplomats the Palestinians also want international observers to “monitor the electoral process and to overcome any Israeli obstacles.”

The head of the EU delegation to the Palestinians, Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff of Germany, said the EU sent a formal request to Israel to allow the entry of international observers to monitor the elections, but no response has so far been received, WAFA reported.

A public opinion poll released last week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research showed that support for Abbas’ Fatah party is up, but the vote might be neck-and-neck with Hamas.

A previous poll three months ago showed that had the elections happened then Hamas would likely have won, but since then support for Fatah has increased and now the outcome is unclear.

In response to the question of who they want to lead the next PA government, 38% replied Fatah; 22% wanted Hamas, 11% wanted other groups, and 29% did not answer the question. Asked about their expectations for the winner, 45% expected Fatah to win, 23% Hamas, 18% said a third or newly created parties.

However, with the Palestinians having a poor track record with democracy, the Palestinians have little faith in the system and believe that corruption will increase no matter who wins.

“Only 42% believe the elections will be free and fair and 48% think they will not be free and fair,” the poll found. “Moreover, 69% believe that if Hamas wins the elections, Fatah will not accept the results and 60% say that if Fatah wins the elections, Hamas will not accept that outcome.”