Israel may allow Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem to participate in Palestinian elections, an Israeli official said Monday.
Israel had threatened to prevent the Palestinians from holding the elections in east Jerusalem since the Islamic group Hamas is participating. Control of Jerusalem is one of the central disputes in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is now considering ways to allow thousands of Palestinians who live in east Jerusalem to vote, without infringing Israel's sovereignty in the sector of the city, a government official said on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak with the press.
Israel will probably allow the Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem to vote in post offices in the city, the official said. Allowing these Palestinians to vote in the city is a key Palestinian demand, since the Palestinians want to maintain a hold on Jerusalem.
The Palestinians claim predominantly Arab east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Israel, which captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war, says the entire city is its eternal capital.
Israel wants to keep Hamas out of the election process since it has carried out several deadly suicide bombings. Hamas' popularity among Palestinians has grown considerably in recent months and the party could take a large percentage of the seats in the parliament in the elections slated for Jan. 25.
Israel has warned that it will not negotiate with any Palestinian government that includes Hamas.
Israel has allowed east Jerusalem Arabs to participate in past Palestinian elections, letting them cast ballots at post offices.