by Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute—
Earlier this year, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas enacted a decree-law on boosting public freedoms ahead of the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections, which were supposed to take place on May 22 and July 31.
Article I of the law provides for “establishing an atmosphere of public freedoms in all the territories of Palestine, including the freedom to practice political and national action.”
Article II provides for “banning the detention, arrest, prosecution of, or holding to account, individuals for reasons relating to the freedom of opinion and political affiliation.”
Since the new law was issued on February 20, however, Abbas, who recently entered the 16th year of his four-year term in office, has called off the elections on the pretext that Israel did not reply to his request to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem.
Israel, it should be noted, never said that it would ban the Palestinian elections from being held in areas under its sovereignty in Jerusalem.
By calling off the elections in late April, Abbas was evidently trying to create the impression that Israel had banned the Palestinians in east Jerusalem from participating in the vote.
Abbas’s Palestinian Central Elections Commission, however, evidently disagreed with him.
In a statement, the commission said that 150,000 voters in east Jerusalem would be able to cast ballots at polling stations in areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, a process that does not require a green light from Israel. Separately, a symbolic total of 6,300 voters would be allowed to cast their ballots in Israeli post offices in east Jerusalem, in accordance with previous agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians.
The real reason why Abbas called off the elections was his fear that his fragmented Fatah faction would lose to Hamas and other political rivals. Abbas was afraid that Hamas would again win the parliamentary election, as it did in 2006.
Moreover, Abbas was afraid because senior officials from his own faction, including Marwan Barghouti, Nasser al-Qidwa and Mohammed Dahlan, were openly challenging him by forming their own electoral lists. Continue Reading…