Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced on Thursday night that the Palestinian elections have been postponed until Israel allows the vote to take place in Jerusalem.
Abbas made the announcement after a meeting of leaders of Palestinian factions in Ramallah.
“We have decided to postpone the parliamentary elections until we ensure the participation of the people of Jerusalem,” Abbas said in a statement. “The elections must be held in all the Palestinian territories, including Jerusalem.”
He said that he will work toward forming a Palestinian national unity government that would “abide by international resolutions and reinforce the PLO.”Earlier in the night, Abbas announced that Israel has informed the Palestinian Authority that it will not allow the Palestinians to hold elections in Jerusalem.
“There will be no elections without Jerusalem,” Abbas said in opening remarks during a meeting of leaders of several Palestinian factions in Ramallah.
The meeting was called amid reports that Abbas was set to announce the postponement of the elections indefinitely because of Israel’s reported refusal to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.
He said that the US, European Union and some Arab countries also informed the Palestinians of Israel’s refusal to allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem.
“Today, we received a message from Israel, the US and some Arab countries about Israel’s opposition to holding the elections in Jerusalem,” Abbas said. “The message we received said that Israel can't make a decision because there is no government in Israel.”
Scoffing at the purported Israeli response, Abbas said: “But there is a government in Israel that is making decisions to build thousands of settlements. Who issued the order to the [Israel] police to stand with the settlers in killing the people of Jerusalem? Where did these decisions came from? Africa? We won’t allow anyone to fool us. This is nonsense. Where is [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu? Netanyahu, may God prolong his life, is still the prime minister.”
Abbas said that the Palestinians are ready to hold the elections once Israel agrees to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.
“We want the elections to take place in Jerusalem, and not in Abu Dis,” he said, referring to a West Bank village south of Jerusalem. “For us, the elections are not a tactic or a game.”
Abbas said that the EU made a big effort to exert pressure on Israel to allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem, but to no avail.
“When we announced the elections, the Europeans told us that they support us and are ready to help us achieve our goal,” he noted. “I told the Europeans that that Israel will not agree to hold the elections in Jerusalem. They told me that they will talk to the Israelis about this. We also asked the Americans where are they, but we didn’t hear from them. We waited and didn’t receive a response. We also sent our foreign minister to Europe to tell them we are running out of time.”
According to Abbas, the heads of the EU told him that they were “frustrated” by Israel’s refusal to respond to the request to hold the elections in Jerusalem.
Abbas accused Israel of “beating” Palestinian candidates in Jerusalem and preventing election gatherings.
He went on to praise the residents of east Jerusalem for protesting Israeli security restrictions in the city in the past three weeks.
“I want to praise the great stance of our people in Jerusalem and the Arab people who stood with us regarding the events in Jerusalem in the past few weeks,” Abbas said. “There is a great people in Jerusalem capable of saying no to the occupation.”
He accused the Israeli government of supporting Jewish extremists who chanted "Death to the Arabs" during a recent demonstration near the Old City of Jerusalem.”
Referring to the removal of the police barricades from Damascus Gate – which reportedly triggered the clashes in the city – Abbas said: “Jerusalem belongs to us; our brothers managed to remove the barricades that prevented them from moving and working in the city. They launched a peaceful, popular resistance. This is the only way to confront this aggression on our people. Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine.”
Earlier this week, Foreign Ministry political adviser Alon Bar told European ambassadors that Israel was not interfering with the scheduled Palestinian elections. “Israel will not prevent the elections in the Palestinian Authority from happening,” Bar said. The Palestinian elections are an internal Palestinian matter, and Israel will not intervene, he added.
Hamas officials said they did not participate in the meeting of the faction leaders because they received an invitation only at the last minute. “Hamas’s position is clear: we reject the postponement of the elections and we will not provide a cover for such a decision,” said Mohammed Subha, a spokesperson for the Hamas electoral list “Jerusalem is Our Destiny.”
Subha warned that postponement of the elections would have a negative impact on efforts to end the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah. He also hinted that the move could trigger widespread protests in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hours before the meeting, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the Gaza Strip to voice opposition to the cancellation of the elections.
Some of the protests were organized by supporters of exiled Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan, an archrival of Abbas. Dahlan loyalists have formed an electoral list called Al-Mustaqbal (Future) to contest the parliamentary elections.
Nayrouz Qarmout, a spokeswoman for Al-Mustaqbal, pointed out that 25 electoral lists running in the parliamentary elections were opposed to the cancellation of the vote. “No one has the right to postpone the elections,” she said. “Only those who are afraid of the results don’t want elections.”
Qarmout and other Palestinians predicted that the cancellation of the elections would intensify the dispute between Fatah and Hamas.
In a joint statement, the electoral lists warned that the cancellation of the elections would be a “constitutional crime.”
“The cancellation of the elections is a new and big catastrophe for the Palestinians,” said Abdel Hakim Awad, a senior official with Dahlan’s Democratic Reform Current movement. “It will have dire effects and serious consequences on the Palestinian people. The elections are a light at the end of the tunnel in order to unify the Palestinian people and end the division [between the West Bank and Gaza Strip].”
The decision to hold the elections was part of an agreement reached between Fatah, Hamas and 12 other Palestinian factions.
The agreement, reached under the auspices of Egypt, called for boosting public freedoms in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the immediate release of detainees held by the PA and Hamas and non-interference by the Palestinian security forces in the electoral process.
The agreement was reached after months of negotiations, which began in July 2020 between Fatah and Hamas leaders in Turkey, Qatar and Egypt.
In accordance with the agreement, Abbas issued a decree on January 15 for holding the first general elections since 2006, when Hamas won the parliamentary vote.
“The Palestinian people in Jerusalem and all constituencies of the nation are invited to general, free and direct elections to elect members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on May 22, 2021 and President of the State of Palestine on July 31, 2021,” Abbas said in the decree.
According to the decree, the PLC elections shall be considered the first stage for the election of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the PLO’s legislative body. The formation of the PNC shall be completed on August 31, 2021.
The Palestinian Central Elections Commission said that 36 electoral lists submitted their nomination applications for the PLC elections, including 29 independent lists and seven from political parties. The number of candidates nominated for the 132-member PLC reached 1,391, including 405 women.