PA to nix election unless bans lifted

Abbas deeply concerned over Israel's decision to ban voting in J'lem.

palestinian vote 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
palestinian vote 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday expressed deep concern over Israel's decision to ban Palestinians from voting in Jerusalem for next month's parliamentary elections. However, unlike other PA officials, Abbas stopped short of threatening to call off the vote if the elections were not held in the city. "This is a dangerous step and one that is important for the future of the Palestinian people," he told reporters after meeting with visiting Egyptian Intelligence Chief Gen. Omar Suleiman. "The parliamentary elections should be held in east Jerusalem as in 1996," he stressed. "Jerusalem should be included in the parliamentary elections as was the case in 1996." Abbas said that the PA has not been notified yet by Israel about the decision to ban the vote in the city. "All what we have heard so far is based on reports in the Israeli media, where Israeli government officials were quoted as saying that they won't allow us to hold elections in east Jerusalem," he added. Abbas said the PA leadership would soon discuss the ban and issue a formal response. He said he briefed the Egyptian emissary on the latest developments surrounding the parliamentary elections and the general situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The meeting was held against a backdrop of reports that Egypt was trying to persuade the PA to postpone the elections for fear that Hamas would score a landslide victory. Suleiman delivered to Abbas a message from President Hosni Mubarak who, according to top PA officials, is worried by the rising power of Hamas and the ongoing state of lawlessness and anarchy in PA-ruled areas. PA Information Minister Nabil Sha'ath took a tougher line, warning that the parliamentary elections would be canceled if the Arab residents of Jerusalem are banned from voting. "The Israeli threats are in violation of international law and the Oslo Accords," he said. "They are also in violation of previous Israeli commitments and assurances from the Quartet." Sha'ath claimed that the ban was in the context of Israel's efforts to "Judaize Jerusalem, abolish its Arab character and consolidate Israeli occupation in the city." He said that the elections won't take place if Jerusalem is excluded. "We are now in touch with Arab and international parties to force Israel to rescind this dangerous decision, which basically means annexing Jerusalem and sabotaging the Palestinian democratic process," he said. Political activist Mustafa Barghouti, who is running in the elections at the head of the Independent Palestine List, on Wednesday warned against postponing the elections, saying such a move could plunge the Palestinian territories into more violence and chaos. He also urged the PA to challenge Israel by holding the elections in Jerusalem at all cost. In a related development, Fatah leaders in the Gaza Strip sent a message to Abbas on Wednesday urging him to postpone the parliamentary elections because of divisions in the ruling party. "At this historic phase, we call upon you to assume your historic and organizational responsibility and to postpone the elections," the Fatah leaders said in their message. They also expressed deep concern at the Hamas victories in the last round of municipal elections in the West Bank, saying it was inconceivable to hold the elections while Fatah was witnessing a severe crisis. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Wednesday that the group wanted the election held as scheduled, and was counting on Abbas to keep his promise to honor the date.