Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said that there would be no new Palestinian elections unless they include east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
In a speech in Ramallah on Monday marking the 15th anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, Abbas said that he is planning to first hold new parliamentary and then presidential elections. No date has been set.
“We have decided to go to a parliamentary election, to be followed by a presidential election,” Abbas told dozens of Palestinians who gathered at his Ramallah presidential Mukata compound to mark the anniversary of Arafat’s death. “These elections should be held in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem. Otherwise, there will be no elections.”
Also on Monday, hundreds of Palestinians marched in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities in the West Bank carrying yellow Fatah flags and posters of Arafat.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas security forces detained several Palestinians who were planning to hold a rally to commemorate Arafat. Last week, Abbas’s Fatah faction accused Hamas of banning all events marking the anniversary of Arafat’s death. Palestinians sources in the Gaza Strip, however, said that Hamas allowed followers of former Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan, an archrival of Abbas, to hold a number of events in the Gaza Strip on this occasion.
In September, Abbas announced his initiative to hold new elections during a speech before the UN General Assembly.
Since then, the PA and several Palestinian factions, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have been holding indirect negotiations in an attempt to reach agreement on the long-overdue elections.
The last presidential election was held in 2005, while the last parliamentary vote took place in 2006.
Despite the indirect negotiations, the PA and the Palestinian factions, particularly those based in the Gaza Strip, have still not reached agreement on Abbas’ initiative to hold new elections. Failure to reach agreement means that the elections will not take place in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
In addition, PA officials have expressed fear that Israel would not allow any presidential or parliamentary elections to take place in neighborhoods located within the Jerusalem Municipality boundaries.
Earlier this week, the officials appealed to the EU to intervene with Israel so it would allow the vote to take place in east Jerusalem. The officials also demanded that Israel allow east Jerusalem residents who hold Israeli-issued ID cards to present their candidacy and cast their ballots in the PA elections, when and if they take place.
Abbas expressed hope that Hamas and all the Palestinian factions would positively respond to his initiative to hold the elections. “I hope they will all rise to the level of responsibility and say yes to elections,” he said. “The elections protect our legitimacy and existence and cause.”
Abbas said he was determined to move ahead with his effort to hold new elections “notwithstanding the circumstances.”
The Palestinians, he added, will also continue to work toward fulfilling their dream of “establishing an independent Palestinian state and achieving self-determination and the right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants to their former homes in Israel.
In his speech, Abbas also referred to the controversy surrounding payments made by the PA to Palestinian security prisoners and families of Palestinians killed while carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel.
“Israel says that the martyrs are criminals, terrorists and murderers,” Abbas noted. “Israel can get lost. We will never give up our martyrs, they are the most sacred to us. Our martyrs, injured and prisoners are the most sacred to us.”
Abbas also referred to US President Donald Trump’s yet-to-be-announced plan for Mideast peace, known as the “Deal of the Century.”
“They tried to give us the ‘slap of the century,’ but we slapped them in the face,” Abbas said. “We will not give up our cause, no matter what the circumstances. We can’t give up the dream of our people. This dream will be fulfilled in the near future.”