DOES HE get a say in the elections?.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
This week, Israeli citizens, including 600,000 living in areas Israeli troops occupied in 1967, will vote in a general election that will determine the next prime minister, and more importantly for us, the next army ruler: the defense minister of Israel. Yet, millions of Palestinians continue to live under Israel’s military rule and cannot vote in this election. The Israeli government doesn’t care about our complaints because we don’t vote.
I have been a staunch supporter of the two-state solution, which calls for an independent state in areas occupied in 1967 (possibly with some border adjustments), alongside Israel. My adult children and many in their generation have been nagging at me to abandon my ideas and to join them in a call for a single state in which Palestinians and Israelis have equal rights. If that was the case today, more than four million Palestinians would be voting in the upcoming general elections. And instead of the occupation being totally ignored, it would be the key issue in the elections.
The reality is that neither my ideas nor those of the young generation have any chance to be heard in the coming months or years, so long as Israelis are able to get away with their army running a discriminatory legal system. A Jewish settler in Hebron or the Jordan Valley has the ability to travel on relatively easy checkpoint roads; get subsidized water and housing and free health insurance; and most importantly, vote for those who make the rules for their lives. This is different than their Palestinian neighbors living under harsh military occupation, travel restrictions, with huge economic inferiority – and, most importantly, without the ability to vote for who rules their lives.
Some might argue that Palestinians have their own government and elections. That is one of the biggest farces. True, there is a person with the title of president, but he needs the permission of the Israeli military authorities as well if he needs to travel. The Palestinian government has no sovereignty over the little Area A that Israeli soldiers left but often return to without any notice. Elections for president and parliament (the last of which was over a decade ago) means little if Palestinian borders are controlled by Israel – and if custom fees collected on behalf of Palestinians are controlled, and often reduced, according to the whim of the Israeli military, which is directed again by the Israeli defense minister, who is appointed by the very same prime minister, who only Israelis can vote for.
Palestinians will watch the upcoming elections with anger and frustration. The hopes that were inspired by the Arafat-Rabin handshake on the White House lawn in 1993 have long disappeared, and the future of an independent state has gone with it. Israelis will most likely elect a leader who is tougher in his controlling policies against the four million Palestinians.
None of the main parties have any road map for peace, and the American peace plan will not be produced by an honest broker but rather by a clearly biased team that daily insults Palestinians and their leaders by words and actions. Some Israelis and their American friends feel that it is high time Palestinians surrender and declare that they lost.
This will not happen.
If Palestinians can’t vote in the coming Israeli elections, they will one day have that right within either a sovereign Palestinian state or within a state with equal rights for all its citizens.The author is an award winning Palestinian journalist from Jerusalem. He is a former Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton University. Follow him on twitter.com/daoudkuttab
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