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PMW op-ed: Why Israel will be blamed for the absence of PA elections

Maurice Hirsch, Adv.  |

Why Israel will be blamed for the absence of PA elections

There are two dominant parties in Palestinian politics: Fatah and Hamas.

This article was originally published on The Jerusalem Post's website on Dec. 4, 2019.

When Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his advisers sit down to plan how to escape the possibility of holding elections for the Palestinian Parliament and the chairmanship of the PA, they will no doubt come up with the ultimate, traditional Palestinian solution: Blame Israel!

There are two dominant parties in Palestinian politics: Fatah and Hamas.

In the formative years of the PA (1994-2005), Fatah, the dominant member of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the party of PA founding father Yasser Arafat, ruled the roost. Fatah’s candidate was elected PA chairman and Fatah ruled the nascent Palestinian Parliament.

Hamas, the internationally designated terrorist organization, spent the formative years of the PA building its power. On the one hand, it carried out hundreds of terrorist attacks. On the other, it created an entire social welfare network as an alternative to the corrupt PA/Fatah rule. Both means served the same goal: to curry favor with the Palestinians in order to pave the way to effectively compete against Fatah.

In the 2005 elections for PA chairman, the time was not yet ripe for Hamas to make a challenge. Accordingly, it boycotted the elections. Only 800,000 of the potential 1,700,000 voters cast their vote. Abbas received only 62% of the votes cast.
The 2006 elections for the PA Parliament were completely different.

Those elections followed Israel’s “disengagement” from Gaza, and the replacement of the comatose Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon with interim prime minister Ehud Olmert. Both events emboldened Hamas.

Abbas, who had taken different steps to facilitate an additional Fatah victory, and who wanted to legitimize his rule and the rule of the Fatah-led parliament, insisted that Israel allow Hamas to participate in the elections, even in Jerusalem. To his horror, Israel agreed.

In the face of immense international pressure, Olmert capitulated, allowing the Hamas to participate. Running in Gaza, the PA-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria and in Jerusalem under the name “Change and Reform,” Hamas crushed Fatah, even in Judea and Samaria, winning an outright majority in the parliament.

However, the Hamas rule of the entire PA was short-lived. When Israel arrested most of the Hamas ministers (following the kidnapping of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in June 2006), and the international community expressed reservations about providing aid to a PA government headed by an internationally designated terrorist organization, Abbas seized the opportunity, deposed the Hamas government, and replaced it with a government more to his liking.

Hamas refused to accept this decision, and in the summer of 2007 it violently seized control of the Gaza Strip.

The Fatah-Hamas rift that has continued for the last 13 years has been constantly used as the excuse for the absence of elections.

So when Hamas recently agreed to Fatah’s terms for holding elections – separate elections for the Parliament and the Chairmanship – Abbas needed to move to Plan B: Blame Israel.

Let there be no misgivings. Abbas and his Fatah Party have no desire whatsoever to hold elections for either the Palestinian Parliament or the chairmanship. They know that they are far from being guaranteed to win. Thus, while pretending to want to play the democratic game, from their point of view, elections are to be avoided at all cost.

The spin is simple. First, persuade the international community that true Palestinian elections can only take place if all the so-called “Palestinian factions” are allowed to participate. Then add the demand that the international community force the Israeli government to “comply with the agreed arrangements for Palestinian general elections in east Jerusalem.”

The term “Palestinian factions” is a euphemism for Hamas and others designated by Israel and the international community as terrorist groups. Needless to say, there is no Israeli-Palestinian agreement that requires Israel to allow the PA to hold elections in Jerusalem with the participation of terrorist groups.

In other words, according to Abbas and the PLO, for the Palestinian elections to be held, Israel must allow designated terrorist groups into Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, to campaign and run in the Palestinian elections.

With the political conundrum that has seized Israel for the last year, there would appear to be zero reason to believe that either of the two potential candidates who eventually will become Israel’s prime minister, will suddenly decide to abandon all of his principles and allow Palestinian terrorist groups to campaign and run in Jerusalem.

When Israel refuses this ultimatum, Abbas will declare that the elections must be pushed off, while squarely laying the blame for the delay on Israel.

In this manner, the Palestinian elections will be avoided. Abbas and Fatah will continue to control the areas of Judea and Samaria currently under their control, and Hamas will continue to control Gaza. Israel will, of course, be blamed.

Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch, Adv. is the Head of Legal Strategies for Palestinian Media Watch. He served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps. In his last position he served as director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. Tweets @mauricehirsch4.

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