Fatah activists and independent local politicians from eastern Jerusalem are expected to run an Arab candidate in the municipal elections in 2023 and have already begun collecting donations and trying to reach agreements on the identity of the head of the list.
A consultation took place between activists from the east of the city and at least one Arab Member of Knesset.
Fatah activists, along with public figures and businessmen from eastern Jerusalem, have recently been holding consultations and meetings in offices and private homes on the question of participation in the next elections to the Jerusalem Municipality, and although many Fatah officials support the idea, the list will not be defined as the movement’s list.
In the meetings, several names of Palestinian candidates with Israeli citizenship were put forward, who would run on the Fatah list or on a list that would be defined as “independent,” thus bypassing the official Fatah policy, which has not yet changed and is still boycotting the municipality.
The internal discussions went into high gear in light of the lessons of what activists call the “Mansour Abbas effect” in the Knesset and Israel’s power centers, and they add that consultations also took place with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas’ associates.
Mansour Abbas, head of the Ra’am party, joined the last government and “received a seat by the table” in return for hefty payoffs in the form of massive budgets, a change from the traditional Arab stance of boycotting the government and staying in the opposition.
Walid Abu Tayya, an Israeli Arab lawyer who has an office in the east of the city, is the one who manages the legal affairs and coordinates the work in this matter and was defined as the “living spirit” behind the initiative.
Abu Tayya told TPS that he intends to submit a candidacy and will act on behalf of an independent list “without connection to Fatah or Arab Knesset members,” and emphasized that he “does not know what the Mansour Abbas effect is.”
The talks are focused on the identity of the head of the list, since according to the law, he must be an Israeli citizen.
One of the activists who recently participated in an event in which Mansour Abbas was present said that “the Mansour Abbas effect is very present in the internal discussions we hold in eastern Jerusalem regarding participation in the elections. We heard him and learned from him.”
According to him, “there is no involvement on the part of Abbas, but the inspiration from his entry into the coalition certainly exists.”
“This is a real expression of the one-state idea,” a senior Fatah official told TPS, “we are seriously considering changing our policy that supported the boycott of the elections and are recalculating a new course, but the direction is positive.”
The activist added that “the goal is a vote of at least 20,000 people, who will support the Arab candidate for the municipality while taking advantage of the division in the Jewish and religious lists.”
In the discussions, the ways to raise 20,000 votes from among the youth sector in the eastern part of the city are being examined, and the need to establish an association that will manage the activity and the fundraising is also being discussed.
“It has not yet been decided which candidate will run at the head of the Palestinian list that will run in the elections,” says a Fatah activist from Jerusalem.
Samer Sangelavi, a Fatah activist and head of the East Jerusalem Development Fund, said that “after 55 years of boycotting the municipal elections, the time has come to review this policy and possibly change it, in the light of developments.”
“It is very possible that we will see Palestinian participation and also an independent list already in the upcoming elections,” he said.
Sources say that “there is an intention to mobilize support from high-status public figures and the important families in the eastern part of the city
In this context, the Nuseibeh family is now being talked about in eastern Jerusalem, and the name of Abd Kader al-Husseini, the son of Fitzal al-Husseini, who was the head of Orient House, has come up as someone invited to take part in the list.
Jerusalem’s Arabs Integrating into Israeli Programs and Life
During the elections in 2018, it was observed that young people from eastern Jerusalem wanted to participate in the elections and influence the results, against which the members of Hamas and the Popular Front acted to prevent participation in the elections, as this can be perceived as recognizing the legitimacy of the Jerusalem Municipality.
Today the Jews in Jerusalem make up 60 percent of the total population after the Jewish majority lost 24 percent in the last 40 years. Along with the decline in this area, the trend of integration of the residents of the eastern part of the city into civil life is increasing, and it finds expression in studies and surveys conducted recently in Israel.
Israeli journalist Ohad Hamo recently reported that there has been an increase in the rate of Arabs seeking to obtain Israeli citizenship as well as in the rate of Arabs seeking to study the Israeli curriculum and the Hebrew language.
Hamo reported on Channel 12 that nearly 20,000 residents of eastern Jerusalem have Israeli citizenship.
In the first decade of the 2000s, over 3,200 people received citizenship, and in the second decade the number jumped up to over 9,600 people.
According to the municipality’s data for 2021, over 13,000 students studied the Israeli curriculum under the supervision of the Israeli Ministry of Education, compared to 11,000 students in 2020 and only about 5,000 in 2017, which is an impressive increase of 160%.
According to research by the Jerusalem Institute, in 2018, 92% of students studied according to the Palestinian program, whereas today, 14.7% of the students study according to the Israeli curriculum.
The proportion of Arab students in the Israeli program in first grade increased from 6.5% in 2018 to 16.5% today. The rate of those eligible for Israeli matriculation increased from 19% to 27%. The number of students in technological education, which is almost non-existent in the Palestinian program, increased from 1,950 to 2,499 students, and the rate of those entitled to a technological certificate increased from 37% to 51%.
The involvement of Fatah activists in municipal affairs is not new: the Jerusalem Municipality manages the Arab neighborhoods within its jurisdiction borders but outside the security barrier through a special directorate that sits in the Qalandia Crossing. Tanzim activists from the neighborhoods say that they are full partners in the management of civil affairs and the municipality admits that “it is impossible to act otherwise and the influence of Fatah people cannot be ignored.”