A Palestinian official said President Mahmoud Abbas was offered at least four solutions to allow the first Palestinian elections in 15 years to move forward as planned, but instead decided to delay them. A source involved in election logistics, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told London-based online news outlet Middle East Eye on Friday that 85-year-old Abbas had been presented in recent weeks with several workable options for East Jerusalem Al-Quds during internal meetings.
He said possible solutions included putting voting stations in UN facilities in Jerusalem Al-Quds or in European embassies, facilitating electronic voting or putting polling stations inside of Jerusalem Al-Quds. Instead, Abbas used the occupied holy city as an excuse to delay the elections and protect his position against rivals within his own Fatah movement, the source said, expressing frustration over long hours spent preparing for the vote. “There was a real will to have an election, but from the first day that [Fatah rival Marwan] Barghouti decided to run, we knew there will be no election,” the source noted.
“The election really was serious. There was no problem with Hamas. There was an agreement. The problem was inside Fatah,” the source pointed out. Abbas told a conference of senior Palestinian officials on Thursday night that the long-awaited Palestinian legislative elections would be indefinitely delayed.
The dispute over East Jerusalem Al-Quds was reportedly the official rationale for the postponement cited by Abbas in a speech early Friday following the meeting of Palestinian political factions. “Facing this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Al-Quds and its people is guaranteed,” Abbas said in the speech on Palestinian TV.
Fatah split into three factions ahead of the upcoming elections — an official list of candidates backed by Abbas; a faction led by Palestinian political figure Marwan Barghouti; and another slate sponsored by former Fatah security official Mohammad Dahlan, who currently resides in Abu Dhabi. The head of the political bureau of the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement said late on Friday that the decision to postpone planned Palestinian elections has no credible justification.
Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised interview that it was “unfortunate” that Abbas decided not to hold the elections.“If the Oslo Agreement protocols are adhered to, the postponement of the elections would mean the confiscation of the political rights of the Palestinians,” he said. “If the Palestinian will is attached to Israel’s decision, Israel cannot be fought politically and on the field,” Haniyeh noted. “As Hamas, we say that the elections should be held in Al-Quds. We agree on this,” he said, stressing the importance of the sacred city. “The State of Palestine has no meaning for us without Al-Quds. Al-Quds has many political, social, religious, and cultural dimensions,” the Hamas chief said. The postponing of elections could return Palestinian domestic politics to where it started, Haniyeh said, noting that the polls are a necessity in tackling the dangers awaiting the Palestinian cause, such as the so-called Deal of the Century, and Israel’s annexation plans.
Israeli authorities have made many efforts to either cancel or postpone the Palestinian elections. Israeli forces have escalated an arrest campaign targeting key Hamas figures in the West Bank in recent months, detaining Mustafa al-Shanar, Adnan Asfour, Khalid al-Hajj, Omar al-Hanbali, Jamal al-Tawil and Khatam al-Qafisheh among others.