Photo Credit: Nasser Ishtayeh / Flash 90
Palestinian Authority PM Mohammad Shtayyeh, September 3, 2022.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has shown that he can include two lies in one short sentence. On August 8, he met with a visiting US Democratic Congressional delegation in his office in Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians where he and his boss, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, live and work.

During the meeting, Shtayyeh blamed Israel for the fact that the Palestinians have not held general elections for nearly two decades. He also accused Israel of “attempting to combat the Palestinian democracy.” Shtayyeh’s remarks, reported by the Palestinians’ official news agency Wafa, show that Palestinian leaders apparently think that many foreigners, especially Americans, are stupid enough to believe anything that comes out of their mouths.


Shtayyeh lied both when he claimed that Israel was responsible for obstructing Palestinian elections and that Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip enjoy democracy.

True, the Palestinians have not been able to hold general elections since 2006. Yet, the claim that it is Israel’s fault is an outright lie. The real reason that Palestinians have not been able to hold parliamentary and presidential elections is the ongoing power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, the Iranian-backed Islamist movement ruling the Gaza Strip.

The last Palestinian parliamentary election was in January 2006, when Hamas won a majority of the seats of the parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The Hamas victory triggered a power struggle with the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders seemed never to accept the results of the vote. This power struggle reached its peak in the summer of 2007, when Hamas overthrew the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and seized control of the entire Gaza Strip. Dozens of Palestinians were killed during the Hamas coup. Some were dragged into the streets and shot; others were thrown from rooftops of tall buildings. Mohammed Sweirki, a Palestinian Authority security officer, was kidnapped and hurled from the 15th floor of a building. A few hours later, in apparent retaliation, Hamas member Abu Kainas was thrown from the roof of a 12-story building.

Since then, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have signed several “reconciliation” agreements that included holding new general elections. Yet, due to the ongoing rivalry between the two parties, none of these agreements has ever been implemented.

In May 2011, the Palestinian Authority’s ruling Fatah faction and Hamas agreed to name members of the Palestinian Central Election Commission to prepare for the long-overdue elections. They also agreed on the nomination of no more than 12 judges to be members of the Palestinian Electoral Court. According to the deal, the general elections were supposed to be held after one year (in 2012).

In 2017, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas signed another agreement to hold a general election by the end of 2018. Nevertheless, because of the continued dispute between the two sides, that agreement, too, never materialized.

In 2021, Mahmoud Abbas, after yet another agreement between his Palestinian Authority and Hamas, finally proclaimed the dates for elections: May 22 and July 30.

Less than a month before the vote, however, Abbas announced his decision to call off the general election under the pretext that Israel had not certified whether it would allow Arab residents of Jerusalem to cast their ballots. Palestinian and Arab political analysts, though, said the real reason Abbas cancelled the elections was because he had lost control over his own Fatah faction and feared it would again lose to Hamas.

The claim that Israel did not allow Arabs in Jerusalem to participate in the elections is false. Israel, regrettably, never issued an official statement on the issue. Even if Israel had prohibited the Arabs residents of Jerusalem from participating in the elections, the decision would have affected only a few thousand voters.

According to protocols that Israel and the Palestinians signed as part of the Oslo Accords, a symbolic total of 6,300 Arab voters are allowed to cast their ballots in Jerusalem itself. The remaining 150,000 Arab voters from Jerusalem are able to cast ballots at polling stations on the outskirts of the city, in a process that does not require a green light from Israel. This is precisely what happened during the 2006 parliamentary and 2005 presidential elections.

Hugh Lovatt, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Affairs, wrote in May 2021:

“By indefinitely postponing the first elections in 15 years, [Abbas] has missed an important opportunity to put Palestine back on path towards national reunification and accountable leadership. He is increasing the political fragmentation and authoritarianism that has marked Palestinian politics since the last elections…

“Since the launch of the electoral process, there had been speculation that Abbas would ultimately call it off if he felt his hold on power slipping. Ironically, this threat came not from Islamist Hamas, but from within his own Fatah party.”

Indeed, reports that Abbas would cancel the elections appeared days before he announced his decision. “Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seriously considering postponing the May 22 parliamentary election and could announce the move within days,” the US-based Axios news website reported 10 days before the announcement. “Abbas and his close aides are concerned they could lose the election and strengthen Hamas. Israel and the Biden Administration privately share those concerns.”

Ramzy Baroud, editor of The Palestine Chronicle, is one of many Arab and Palestinian political analysts who have accused Abbas of using the issue of Jerusalem as an excuse to cancel the election:

“The truth is Abbas canceled the elections because all credible public opinion polls showed that this month’s legislative vote would have decimated the ruling clique of his Fatah party and ushered in a whole new political configuration. This would have seen Abbas’s rivals Marwan Barghouti and Nasser Al-Qidwah emerge as the new leaders of Fatah. If this scenario were to occur, a whole class of millionaires who turned the Palestinian struggle into a lucrative industry, generously funded by ‘donor countries,’ was at risk of losing everything….

“There is nothing that Abbas can say or do at this point to restore the people’s confidence in his authority. Arguably, he never had their confidence in the first place. By canceling the elections, he has crossed a red line, thus placing himself and a few others around him as enemies of the Palestinian people, their democratic aspirations, and their hope for a better future.”

So, evidently Abbas’s decision to call off the elections really did have nothing to do with Israel. It was mainly the result of Abbas’s totally justified fear that his divided Fatah faction would once again be trounced by Hamas.

Yet, Shtayyeh seems unwilling to allow the facts to get in the way of his straight-faced lies. In the past two years, Shtayyeh has been repeating his lie, that the elections were canceled because of Israel, on almost a weekly basis. He has repeated this lie to virtually every foreign dignitary or delegation he meets with, including, recently, the US Democratic Congressional delegation.

About Shtayyeh’s other lie that he keeps repeating, that Palestinians have democracy, one does not need to be an expert on Palestinian affairs to know that unfortunately the Palestinians are actually controlled by two undemocratic, repressive regimes: the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Shtayyeh, it seems, also forgot to tell the Congressional members who came to see him in his office that the Palestinians do not have either a free and independent media or a functioning parliament. The Palestinian parliament was dissolved by Abbas in 2018.

Until then, it had been paralyzed due to the power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.

Shtayyeh further forgot to tell his visitors that his own Palestinian Authority government was viciously cracking down on Palestinian journalists, human rights activists, political opponents and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the West Bank. The same holds true for the Gaza Strip, where Hamas has also been targeting human rights workers, peaceful protesters, journalists and political activists.

When Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, tells foreign guests that Israel is “combating the Palestinian democracy,” he can probably get away with his lies to Westerners, but the Palestinians are too smart to see through his lies. In the past few years, Palestinians have taken to the streets to protest Palestinian corruption and repression.

In 2019, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah to protest the Palestinian Social Security Institution and the impending tax hikes required to fund it. Palestinians also took to the streets to blast the killing of the heroic human rights activist, Nizar Banat, beaten to death by Palestinian security officers in June 2021.

The demonstrators shouted slogans calling for the Palestinian president to step down and demanding justice for the slain human rights activist: “Oh Abbas, take your dogs and go away!” “The people want regime change”, “Down with the [Palestinian Authority] military rule,” and “Shame, shame, the Palestinian Authority assassinated Nizar Banat.”

While talking about Palestinian “democracy,” did Shtayyeh bother to tell his American guests that a majority of the Palestinians do not criticize the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for fear of their lives, especially after the “example” that was made of Nizar Banat? Just a few weeks ago, Shtayyeh’s security forces arrested yet another Palestinian journalist, Aqil Awawdeh, for social media posts that were critical of political arrests made by the Palestinian Authority.

Did Shtayyeh bother to tell the US Congressional delegation and other foreigners who ask to visit Ramallah that, according to recent public opinion polls, a vast majority of the Palestinians believe there is corruption in institutions controlled by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas?

Recently, the Palestinian Coalition for Accountability and Integrity published a report naming officials close to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of suspected of involvement in financial corruption. Last year, even then Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde criticized corruption in the Palestinian Authority. Saying that widespread corruption was hindering Swedish economic aid to the Palestinians, she emphasized serious hesitation about Swedish economic support.

The Palestinians, who every day see a democracy in Israel — for more than seven decades — can only dream of having one like it.

Palestinian leaders such as Shtayyeh are accustomed to lying to foreigners, whom they view as ignorant and gullible. Many of these foreigners are also blinded by their hatred for Israel and Jews to the point that they are willing to swallow the lies offered with smiles by Palestinian officials.

Those who visit Ramallah and fail to challenge the lies they hear only reaffirm the disrespectful view these leaders have of them. Worse, those visitors are also complicit in the campaign of disinformation and brainwashing that has long been waged by these Palestinian leaders with the aim of vilifying Israel, demonizing Jews and above all, cruelly suppressing their own people.


{Reposted from Gatestone Institute}


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Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East. This article originally appeared on the Gatestone Institute website (