Capital's Arabs vote Hamas

Landslide vote casts doubt on Israeli belief that J'lemites were moderate.

east jerusalem 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
east jerusalem 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Thousands of Arab residents of Jerusalem voted overwhelmingly for Hamas in Wednesday's elections, casting aside their traditional ambivalence and unequivocally siding with the Islamic terror organization in a city that had always been considered Fatah turf. Final election results released Thursday showed that all four Jerusalem seats up for open election went to Hamas, Palestinian Authority election officials said. Two other city seats were reserved for Christian delegates. The landslide vote cast doubt on long-standing Israeli beliefs that the 230,000 Arab residents of Jerusalem were more moderate than the Palestinians in the West Bank, having grown acclimated to the economic benefits of living under Israeli sovereignty. "In some ways the vote is a real surprise because we always felt that the Arab residents of Jerusalem - because they were living under Israeli sovereignty - were closer to Israel and more moderate," said Dr. Yitzhak Reiter, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies. He cited the fact that the bulk of the terrorists who targeted the capital over the last five years came from the West Bank, even as Jerusalem Arabs were increasingly enlisted by terror groups as accomplices due to their freedom of movement. Reiter noted, however, that the support for Hamas among Jerusalem Arabs could also be seen as a vote against the corruption-riddled PA and the mainstream Fatah movement. He said the vote would likely hasten the demographic process of separating the city's Arab neighborhoods from Jewish ones, with Israel likely to leave an increasing number of Arab villages as possible on the PA side of the security barrier going up around the city. Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said that he would cede at least six outlying Jerusalem Arab villages to the Palestinians as part of a final peace agreement - a move which public opinion polls indicate is favored by a majority - while the barrier going up around Jerusalem is already laying the groundwork for such a division by placing at least four peripheral Arabs neighborhoods on the PA side. The vast majority of Jerusalem's Arab residents have until now largely stayed away from political activity over the years, preferring instead to focus on their jobs, and the social benefits Israel offers them, such as health care, unemployment compensation and National Insurance Institute payments. Israel allowed about 6,300 Jerusalem Arabs to vote at six east Jerusalem post offices, in the same arrangement worked out in the two previous PA elections, while the vast majority of roughly 120,000 eligible voters had to cast their ballot at nearby polling stations in the West Bank. Israel had forbidden terror organizations, such as Hamas, from campaigning in east Jerusalem, but, despite a series of arrests and police raids over the last month, the group defied the ban through the very end of the voting. Some Arab residents of the city pointed out that Israel's actions against Hamas may have inadvertently helped the group. But others noted Fatah lagged far behind the well-prepared Hamas in getting out the vote, as Hamas actively drove supporters to the polls, sometimes transporting a whole clan at a time. Jerusalem Fatah activists, who in the one previous parliamentary election could barely muster 1,200 voters in the city, stood aghast in view of the large numbers of active Hamas supporters, who drove hundreds of vehicles flaunting flags, ribbons and portraits of their candidates on election day. Outside observers also pointed to the increasingly Islamic lifestyle of Jerusalem Arabs, with the vast majority of women now covering themselves from head to toe, a sight rarely seen a decade ago.