Israeli could throw a wrench in the Palestinian electoral process by refusing to acknowledge calls to encourage residents of East Jerusalem to vote.
After a 15-year interval, Palestinians will hold legislature elections on May 22 and presidential elections on July 31.
The international community, along with the Palestinian Authority (PA), has consistently urged Israeli government not to impede the democratic process in East Jerusalem; the region occupied by Tel Aviv since 54 years ago.
Hardliner Israeli lawmakers resist Palestinian sovereignty in the region. They regard Jerusalem as one area all designated as Israeli capital. Palestinians and the global community deny the claim based of UN resolutions and international treaties.
Palestine as the authority to hold elections in Jerusalem under the Transitional Phase Agreement negotiated in Washington in 1995 between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
Previous elections held in 1996, 2005, and 2006 included Palestinians living in East Jerusalem. They cast their ballots in six Israeli postal centers set up in the capital. Palestinian Central Elections Commission (CEC) relieved the ballots through mail.
According to the CEC, these offices can accept no more than 6,300 voters on a single polling day due to limitation in space and staff. The majority of Jerusalem’s residents are compelled to vote in polling stations.
According to unofficial Palestinian figures, about 350,000 Palestinians live in the occupied region of Jerusalem. 14 polling stations were set up in Jerusalem’s suburbs for the 2006 elections.
Electoral procedures in the region have previously been thwarted by Israeli officials. Following the 2006 elections, Israel detained the East Jerusalem legislators on suspicion of being affiliates of the Hamas movement.
The elected officials were exiled to the West Bank after their residency was revoked. Concerns over the conduct of elections in Jerusalem have resurfaced as Palestinian elections close. Palestinian people demand that the polls be held in East Jerusalem, as they are in other Palestinian located regions.
Furthermore, the fact that the legislative polls are set for May 22, on Saturday in fact, raises concerns about the election execution process in East Jerusalem, where ballots are cast in Israeli government-owned postal offices.
Hatem Abdel-Qader, a member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council, says “Jerusalem is a red line,” and emphasizes that holding the election in the city by postal offices, as they were in 2005 and 2006, is the least unavoidable condition.
He also claimed that elections in Jerusalem should not be focused on Israeli whims. Palestinians believe holding elections on the outskirts of town is “unacceptable” because it means acceptance of Israeli occupation.
The Fatah leader even demanded that the electoral commission plan for ballot boxes in the streets of East Jerusalem so that everybody be able to vote, even though the occupation forces snatch their ballots.
Hamas leaders in a visit to Cairo last year informed Egypt that they will take part in new elections. Hamas and other Palestinian forces were waiting for Abbas to issue a “presidential order” specifying a date for the election, according to Hamas officials.
In recent months, the Jerusalem Police have arrested the two most senior PA officials in the capital, “governor” Adnan Gheith and minister for Jerusalem affairs Fadi al-Hidmi, under accusations of carrying out plans within Israel.
The continuing Israeli crackdown on Palestinian political leaders and PA officials in Jerusalem is one of the key reasons for Ramallah’s skepticism about east Jerusalem’s inclusion in the forthcoming elections. Palestinian official expected the clarification of Israeli positions on the Issue after Israel election on March 23. With the result proving the continuity of political deadlock in Tel Aviv, there is no certainty about Israel’s facilitating the election process in Jerusalem.