EU said to be pressuring Palestinians to hold new elections

Fatah, Hamas leaders meet in Turkey to discuss elections, unity

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) talks with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (R) talks with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Palestinian Authority is again facing pressure from some European Union states to hold long-overdue presidential and parliamentary elections.
Leaders of the ruling Fatah faction and Hamas were scheduled to meet in Turkey on Tuesday to discuss holding new elections and ending their dispute, which reached its peak in 2007. At the time, Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip after overthrowing the PA regime.
On the eve of the meeting, PA President Mahmoud Abbas phoned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and briefed him on efforts to end the Fatah-Hamas rift and hold new elections.
Abbas announced on September 26, 2019, during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly that he intends to set a date for elections upon his return to the West Bank.
Abbas, who is scheduled to address the UN General Assembly later this week by videoconference, abandoned the plan to hold elections on the pretext that Israel would not allow residents of east Jerusalem to participate in the vote.
The PA president’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, said Abbas, in his speech, “will lay out the upcoming Palestinian steps to confront what the Palestinian cause is facing and defend the rights and interests of our people.” Abbas’s speech will “express the unified Palestinian position and affirm Palestinian national principles that won’t change regardless of the pressure and schemes to liquidate the Palestinian issue and the free normalization [between Arab states and Israel],” he said.
Shortly after Abbas’s announcement at the UN, Hamas confirmed that it had agreed with the Palestinian Central Elections Commission to participate in the next elections. Hamas, however, also said it would not accept the exclusion of east Jerusalem under any circumstances.
The last Palestinian presidential election was held in January 2005, when Abbas was elected to succeed former PLO leader Yasser Arafat for a four-year term. The last parliamentary election, held exactly one year later, resulted in a Hamas victory.
Some EU members have resumed their pressure on the PA leadership to move forward with election plans, a senior Palestinian official told The Jerusalem Post.
Although Fatah and Hamas were in agreement over the need to hold new elections, it remains unclear whether Israel would permit residents of east Jerusalem to participate in them, the official said.
“As President Abbas has made it clear, there will be no elections without east Jerusalem,” the official told the Post. “In the past, Israel allowed residents of east Jerusalem to present their candidacy and cast their ballots in the Palestinian elections. We are demanding assurances from the EU and other international parties, including the United Nations, that Jerusalem would be included in the new elections.”
Tuesday’s meeting between Fatah and Hamas leaders in Turkey comes in the context of the two parties’ efforts to achieve national reconciliation and “work together toward foiling Israeli and US conspiracies” against the Palestinians.
The Fatah delegation is headed by Jibril Rajoub, secretary-general of the Fatah Central Committee, while the Hamas team is led by Ismail Haniyeh and his deputy, Saleh al-Arouri.
In 2018, the US State Department offered a reward of up to $5 million for information that would lead to the identification or location of Arouri and two senior Hezbollah terrorists. Arouri is a key figure in forming relations between Hamas and Iran and Hezbollah and is responsible for handling Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. He has been linked to several terrorist attacks, including the 2014 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank.
If the Fatah and Hamas leaders reach agreement on the proposed elections, Abbas will issue a “presidential decree” setting a date for the new vote, Palestinian sources said. The Palestinian Central Elections Commission says it needs 100 days to prepare for the elections.
Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, said the meeting in Turkey was aimed at “reaching agreement on a national and comprehensive strategy for confronting the challenges and schemes targeting the Palestinian cause.”
Before heading to Turkey, Rajoub said Fatah and Hamas are on their way to establishing a new partnership. After the elections, the two sides will discuss forming a national-unity government, he said.
The discussions in Turkey will focus on holding parliamentary elections and then on elections for the PA presidency, Rajoub said.