Palestinians wait on talks of possible elections

A Palestinian inspects a site that was targeted by Israeli warplanes in the southern Gaza Strip recently. (Reuters)
Updated 05 November 2019

Palestinians wait on talks of possible elections

  • Former presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouthi highlights obstacles that could hinder polls

GAZA CITY: As Palestinians await further developments on talks of possible elections, the positive noises emanating from Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas have not put minds at ease. Abbas met with Hamas’s approval last week to hold legislative polls no more than three months before the presidential election.
For the second time in seven days, the Central Election Commission (CEC), headed by Dr. Hanna Nasser, met with Hamas and other Palestinian leaders in Gaza to brief them on Abbas’s position and to discuss further details.
But it is enough worry many Palestinians who recall many failed past experiences, the most important of which was the Egyptian-sponsored reconciliation agreement in 2017 and the municipal elections that were agreed upon and were supposed to take place two years ago.
The overdue polls come amid the backdrop of recent electoral stalemates in Israel, and the political upheaval in Lebanon.
Ibrahim Abrash, a professor of public law and political science, told Arab News that talk about successful elections in Palestine was “premature” given so little progress had been made in the recent past.
The CEC’s actions came in response to a call for a general election launched by President Abbas on Sept. 26, which, Abrash believes, was due to “people pressure” rather than any actual desire to go to the polls.
“The political class and parties do not want to hold elections, and every party is satisfied with his hand,” he said, adding that a genuine and sincere intention to go to the polls would require national dialogue sessions to agree on the electoral laws, and to establish mechanisms and procedures to ensure a healthy, transparent and fair election.
“Without this, the elections will fail, and the ordinary Palestinian will be the one who suffers.”

BACKGROUND

Central Election Commission Executive Director Hisham Kuhail said legislative elections would need 120 days following the issuance of the presidential decree, and that the public should ‘therefore expect the elections in February 2020.’

Legislative elections have been held twice previously in Palestine, the first in 1996 for the Legislative Council and the Presidency following the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, and the second in 2006, preceded by the presidential elections in 2005 following the death of President Yasser Arafat.
The former presidential candidate and head of the National Initiative Movement, Mustafa Barghouthi, identified several obstacles that could hinder Palestinian elections, notably Israel’s refusal to allow them to be held in occupied Jerusalem, its arrest of candidates in the West Bank, and the potential collapse of the current national talks, and the failure of Hamas to allow elections in Gaza.
Barghouti told Arab News that the current movement was a “precious opportunity” that should be treated as a form of popular resistance to the stale state of Palestinian politics, that, if successful, could lead to elections that reflect the will of the Palestinian people.
Following the meeting with the CEC on Sunday, Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh said that the talks discussed details that would ensure a successful electoral process.
Talal Abu Zarifa, a member of the political bureau of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said that ensuring the holding of elections and respecting their results called for the provisional leadership framework to be convened to discuss electoral law, especially full proportional representation, as well as discussing the issue of freedom of candidacy.
CEC Executive Director Hisham Kuhail told Palestine Radio that legislative elections would need 120 days following the issuance of the presidential decree, and that the public should “therefore expect the elections in February 2020.”


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”