A demonstrator in Gaza City holds a Palestinian flag during a rally calling on rivals Hamas and Fatah to end their political division.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Thousands of people are shuffling through Bethlehem’s Old City hours before the beginning of Id al-Adha, the Muslim holiday commemorating the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael.
The smell of sweets and lamb meat permeates the Old City’s alleyways, and long lines form in front of barber shops ahead of the holiday.
Vendors sell traditional gifts, clothing and toys, tourists browse the shops, and bands of Palestinian Authority security personnel stand nearby.
Bethlehem, one of the largest cities in the West Bank, with an estimated population of 25,000, had been preparing for municipal elections scheduled to take place on October 8.
However, the PA’s High Court of Justice in Ramallah suspended the elections on Thursday, citing the exclusion of Jerusalem and concerns about the legality of courts in Gaza.
The decision has elicited a variety of responses on the Palestinian street, ranging from disappointment to support to indifference.
Sami Abu Aitah, a hotel owner, told The Jerusalem Post he had wanted elections to take place on time.
“I have always supported holding elections and the renewal of the democratic process, but we knew that they would not take place,” he said, adding, “The decision to suspend them is purely political. Basically, Hamas and Fatah have failed to overcome their differences, and we, the people, are stuck in the middle.”
Sami Abu Eid, a communal taxi driver, told the Post
he fears the suspension will only deepen the divide between Hamas and Fatah.
“We hoped that these elections would mark the beginning of the end of the division between Hamas and Fatah, but with their suspension, it appears that they will only reinforce it,” he said. “The leadership needs to take action to bring the Palestinian people together.”
The Palestinian leadership insists that the suspension of the elections is exclusively a legal matter. PLO Executive Committee secretary-general Saeb Erakat told Maan, a Palestinian news site, on Saturday that “the court’s decision is legal, not political, and all indications point to holding the municipal elections.”
The High Court will reconvene on September 21 to determine the future of the elections.
Muhammad Muhammad, a money changer, told the Post
he strongly supports the court’s decision.
“I was very glad to learn that the courts suspended the elections, because we should not vote if Jerusalem is not included in the electoral process,” he said. “We cannot surrender to the status quo and act as if we live in different countries.”
Mahmoud Abd al-Mustafa, a souvenir shop worker, told the Post
he is indifferent to the High Court’s decision.
“From the beginning, I was never interested in the elections, because they won’t change anything,” he said.
“Were the elections going to end the occupation or improve the PA’s governance? Obviously not. I want change, but municipal elections won’t accomplish that.”
The PA High Court could decide to allow the elections to move forward. Nonetheless, it is not clear how it could justify such a move, considering its ruling cited the inability to hold elections in Jerusalem and concerns with Gazan courts.
Israel made clear to the PA in July that it will not allow elections to take place in areas of Jerusalem under its sovereignty.
Moreover, Hamas has said the PA has to deal with regional courts in Gaza if it wants it to participate in the elections.