Top Fatah man: Jerusalemites will vote

Abdel Kader tells 'Post' efforts are being made to reunite party.

east jerusalem 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
east jerusalem 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Arab residents of Jerusalem will participate in next month's parliamentary elections in the Palestinian Authority despite Israeli objections, Hatem Abdel Kader, a senior Fatah operative from Jerusalem, said on Thursday. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Abdel Kader, who won the first place in last month's primary elections for Fatah in the Jerusalem area, said the Israelis must know that Jerusalem's Arab residents can't be excluded from the vote. "We are determined to hold the elections in Jerusalem," he stressed. "I believe the Jerusalemites will eventually participate in the elections, whether Israel likes it or not." Abdel Kader said that the US and EU support the participation of the Jerusalem Arabs in the elections, although they are deeply concerned at the possibility that Hamas might score a landslide victory. "The Americans, Europeans and some Arabs have told us that we must solve the crisis in Fatah before they exert pressure on Israel to include Jerusalem in the elections," he disclosed. "That's why we are now making a big effort to unite the two Fatah lists that are running separately. We want the elections in Jerusalem to take place in the same format as in 1996." He dismissed the Israeli objections as a violation of the Oslo Accords and assurances by the international community that Jerusalem would not be excluded. Abdel Kader, who was elected in the first parliamentary elections as one of seven representatives of Jerusalem in the Palestinian Legislative Council, said Fatah was close to reaching a deal on merging the two lists. The offshoot, called al-Mustaqbal, is headed by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti and consists of "young guard" activists from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The other list was formed by the Fatah central committee, a key decision-making body dominated by old timers in the ruling party. On Thursday, Abdel Kader and other Fatah officials petitioned the PA's High Court requesting that the PA central elections commission allow registration for the parliamentary elections for another 12 hours so that they could register a united Fatah list. In their petition, the Fatah officials complained that the elections commission had suspended registration for 24 hours following a series of attacks by gunmen on its offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip earlier this month. He said the new list would be headed by Barghouti, who recently won a majority of votes in the primary elections for Fatah in the Ramallah area. Sources in Ramallah said on Thursday that Fatah leaders were close to reaching an agreement on uniting the two lists. According to the sources, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, who visited Ramallah on Wednesday, played an instrumental role in bridging the gap between the veteran Fatah leaders and the rebels led by Barghouti. Asked about the possibility that the parliamentary could be delayed because of the ongoing power struggle in Fatah and out of fear that Hamas may score a landslide victory, Abdel Kader said: "I don't think that the elections will be postponed. The international community is making a big effort to ensure that the elections are held on time." Abdel Kader expressed hope that resolving the crisis in Fatah would encourage Israel to rescind the ban on the participation of Jerusalem Arabs in the elections. "Everyone is telling us that we must end the crisis in Fatah by merging the two lists," he added. That's why we are now making huge efforts to unite our ranks. This is the only way to prevent a Hamas victory." He said the Palestinians were prepared to accept a compromise that allows voters to cast their ballots in Israeli post office branches in Jerusalem. "What is important for us is that the elections take place in Jerusalem, as was the case in 1996, because Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state," he said. Abdel Kader said he was not worried by Hamas's success in the last round of municipal elections in the West Bank. "True, the Hamas victories are an indication of what might happen in the parliamentary elections, but Hamas is strong mainly because of the weakness of Fatah," he explained. "Once we solve the crisis in Fatah, Hamas will lose a lot of its power. In any case, we will respect the results of the elections because this is what democracy is about. If Hamas wins, we will blame Israel. The Israelis mujst know that the alternative to elections is more chaos and security deterioration in the Palestinian territories."