Voter registration starts in Gaza, West Bank

Updated 12 February 2013
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Voter registration starts in Gaza, West Bank

GAZA CITY: Palestinian electoral officials yesterday began the long-overdue process of updating voter rolls in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a key step toward eventual elections, officials said.
“The registration of voters is now beginning in the West Bank and Gaza. We hope accomplishing it will be the first step to ending the division,” said Central Elections Commission chief Hanna Nasser in announcing the start of the week-long operation at a news conference in Gaza City.
Voter registration has been delayed for years due to a long-running dispute between the Hamas rulers of Gaza and its Fatah rival which dominates the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.
It is a key part of preparations for legislative and presidential elections called for under terms of a reconciliation deal signed in 2011 but which has never been implemented. The process is likely to involve registering some 350,000 Gazans as eligible to vote, many of them for the first time.
The week-long registration drive will involve 581 people who will register voter details at 256 schools across the Gaza Strip based upon lists provided by the interior ministry. Updating the electoral register in Gaza, where voter details have not been updated since the last elections in 2006, removes a major stumbling block blocking reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The procedure had been due to begin last year but the CEC’s work was “temporarily” halted by Hamas as reconciliation efforts ran aground. The CEC reopened its Gaza offices in January 2012 but could not begin work on updating the voter lists without Hamas’s permission, which it subsequently received in May.
Election officials began recruiting employees and had been due to start registering individual voters when the process was suddenly halted in July by Hamas, which argued that various “obstacles” needed to be resolved before the CEC could continue its work.
Yesterday’s breakthrough came about after Hamas and Fatah made a fresh attempt to implement the 2011 reconciliation deal that called for establishing an interim government of independents that would oversee preparations for legislative and presidential elections, including the updating of voter rolls in Gaza.
Over the weekend, Palestinian factions held two days of marathon reconciliation talks in Cairo which ended with a commitment to begin consultations over the formation of an interim government — another issue which has bogged down reconciliation efforts.

 


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.