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August 27, 2016 / 23 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘municipal elections’

Catch 22: Letting Hamas Partake in PA Free Elections Could Topple the PA

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

According to Israeli security apparatus estimates, there’s a significant chance that Hamas will win the municipal elections in Judea and Samaria and in Gaza by a landslide, severely weakening the PLO dominated Palestinian Authority and compromising Israeli security. The municipal elections are set to take place on October 8, in close proximity to the international peace conference in Europe, which means Israel is less likely to step in to block the vote, even if it wanted to. Also, doing so would thwart the only back to back democratic event to have ever existed in the territories Israel conceded in the Oslo Accord — that the 2012 municipal elections be followed in an orderly and legal fashion by the 2016 municipal elections.

However, according to Israeli media, many in the PLO leadership are leaning on PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to postpone or cancel the municipal elections, fearing a repeat of the 2006 parliamentary elections in which Hamas defeated the PLO and a year later forcibly exiled Abbas and his PA from Gaza.

It should be noted that the Oslo Accords forbid the participation of terror organizations in PA elections, but Hamas has already set a precedence in 2006, and today’s PA is even weaker and less popular than it was ten years ago. Abbas may not be able to push the date, much less cancel the vote, because such a move could result in riots across the PA.

The city of Shechem is a clear example of the PA Chairman’s loss of control over the security situation in much of the area under his authority. According to Israeli media, the PA no longer rules in Shechem, which is mired in anarchy that could spread to other cities, most likely to Hebron, already considered a bastion of Hamas. Shechem today is being ruled by about 100 armed gangsters, belonging to both political and criminal groups. This month there have been bloody confrontations between PA security forces and the armed locals, resulting in four dead, two of them police.

Senior PLO sources have told Israeli media that Mahmoud Abbas has lost interest in local security issues under his care, and the man in charge is his chief aide, Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, who also controls the intelligence reports reaching Abbas’ desk.

Hamas has recently published a propaganda video showing the Gaza Strip as a kind of Paradise, with large parks, luxury buildings, a sassy nightlife, and shopping areas. It also features Gaza residents holding up signs saying, “Thank you, Hamas.” Will PA voters fall for this propaganda? Probably not. They will not vote for Hamas because they are unaware of the poverty and destruction that permeate the Gaza Strip, they’ll vote for Hamas because they perceive it as more anti-Israel and less corrupt than the PLO.

Israeli pundits believe the big winners from a Hamas win in the PA would be Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) and Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), who would benefit from the decisions of alarmed Israeli voters. Which is why Prime Minister Netanyahu should be invested in making it harder for Hamas candidates to win in the PA. Mass arrests of Hamas activists could be the way to go — risking international condemnation, naturally, but too much might be at stake for the Israeli PM to care.

JNi.Media

10 Years after Takeover Hamas Promises New Elections

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

January 25, 2006 was the last time Gazans voted for their ruling government, and the Hamas movement won it, with Ismail Haniyeh nominated for Prime Minister. Hamas then established a national unity government with the PLO, which collapsed shortly thereafter when Hamas violently removed the PLO from the Strip. Things remained the same for a decade, through three violent confrontations with Israel, until, last week, Hamas surprised everyone by declaring free municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, to coincide with the next round of municipal elections in the PA, scheduled for October 8.

Hamas says it is planning to run a national slate made up of technocrats (who just happen to all be Hamas members). Representatives of different parties in Gaza swore an oath last week, to abide by the elections rules and to respect the candidates and the deals that they make, and, most important, abide by the election results and by the decisions of the central elections committee.

The last time the Palestinian Authority held municipal elections was in 2012. Now a PA delegation has met with Haniyeh to discuss extending the municipal vote to the Gaza Strip as well.

According to Ynet, the reason Hamas may be prepared to open up the Gaza municipalities to PLO representatives is that Hamas is hoping to capitalize on its popularity in the PA, where the public has had enough of the corrupt PLO leadership. Hamas has won the student union elections in key PA universities such as Bir Zeit and the Hebron Politechnic. The Hamas leadership is convinced they have the momentum in the PA, and the municipal elections could serve as their trial balloon. Their aim, is, of course, for the PA to be forced to declare national elections, where the chances would be high that a Hamas candidate, most likely Ismail Haniyeh, would win the Chairmanship.

Voter registration opened on Saturday, including registration online. Eligible voters will have five days to join the reported 2 million voters who have already registered, constituting, according to the Palestinian Authority Central Elections Commission, 78.5% of the eligible voters in Judea and Samaria (including eastern Jerusalem) and in Gaza.

In 2006, there were 1,341,671 registered voters and 1,042,424 votes cast, according the Palestinian Authority Central Elections Commission.

In 2013, voter registration the Palestinian Authority suddenly jumped by 300,000 voters in the span of around 6 months. That massive influx of newly registered voters primarily originated from Gaza.

For comparison’s sake, in Israel’s 2015 elections, there were 5,881,696 registered Israeli voters and 4,254,738 votes case.

While back in 2006, Israel had 5,014,622 registered voters.

JNi.Media

How Jerusalem’s Arabs Act Against Their Own Interests

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

As Israelis prepare to cast their ballots in the municipal elections next week, tens of thousands of eligible Arab voters in Jerusalem will once again boycott the democratic process.

In the past few days, the Palestinian Liberation Organization [PLO], Hamas and several other Palestinian organizations have called on the Arab residents of Jerusalem to stay away from the ballot boxes.

These organizations maintain that Arab participation in the municipal election would be interpreted as recognition of Israel’s decision to annex the eastern part of the city in the aftermath of the 1967 Israeli-Arab war.

As such, the vast majority of the Arab residents have since been boycotting the local election, mainly out of fear of being dubbed “traitors” by various Palestinian organizations.

But if anyone stands to lose from the boycott it is the Arabs themselves.

First, the boycott has done nothing to undermine Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. Some would even argue that Israeli dominion over the city has never been as strong as it is these days, especially in wake of the Arab residents’ failure to take part in crucial decisions concerning their neighborhoods and villages.

Second, the boycott has severely harmed the interests of the Arab residents, who have been denied the chance to have representatives in the municipal council who would fight for better services and the improvement of their living conditions. The Arabs make up 25-30% of the city’s eligible voters, which means that they could have 7-8 representatives in the 31-seat municipal council. The boycott has denied the Arabs the opportunity to be directly involved in the planning of their neighborhoods.

While it is true that some Arabs boycott the municipal elections for ideological reasons, there is no denying the fact that many are also afraid of being targeted by extremists if they present their candidacy or go to the ballot boxes.

A few Arabs who in the past dared to challenge the boycott have faced death threats. One of them was newspaper publisher Hanna Siniora, who back in 1987 announced his intention to run in the municipal election. Siniora’s car was torched by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a move that forced him to retract his candidacy.

Eleven years later, another Arab, Mussa Alayan, defied the boycott by running at the head of an independent list. He received fewer than 3,000 votes and did not make it to the city council. Alayan could have probably become the first Arab council member had he and his supporters not faced a brutal and violent campaign by Palestinian activists.

Yet while Arab residents are boycotting the election, most of them continue to deal with the same municipality which they are not supposed to recognize. They even continue to pay taxes and fees to the municipality.

The Jerusalem Municipality has more than 1,500 Arab employees, and its various departments continue to provide many services to the Arab neighborhoods and villages in the city. These activities are taking place despite the Arab boycott that has been in effect since 1967.

Arabs who complain about lack of municipal services often seek the help of representatives of left-wing parties in the municipal council, such as Meretz.

Today, many Arabs in Jerusalem are not afraid to declare openly that they prefer to live under Israeli rule, and not under that of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. The problem remains, however, that the overwhelming majority is still afraid of the radicals.

What is needed is a strong Arab leadership that would not hesitate to stand up to the radicals and question their goals. Such a leadership would have to make it clear that there should be a complete separation between the political issues and the day-to-day affairs of Jerusalem’s Arab population.

Until such leaders emerge, the Arabs in Jerusalem will, by boycotting the municipal elections, unfortunately continue to act against their own interests.

Khaled Abu Toameh

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/khaled-abu-toameh/how-jerusalems-arabs-act-against-their-own-interests/2013/10/18/

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