LONDON: The British government has called on Israel to ensure free and fair Palestinian elections take place in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Palestinian voters want free, fair and inclusive elections throughout the West Bank and Gaza,” the British Consulate in Jerusalem tweeted.
“We call on Israel to facilitate elections in line with the Oslo Accords. The recent disruption of meetings in East Jerusalem and arrest of candidates is unacceptable.”
Elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council are expected to be held on May 22. Last week, Israeli police arrested three candidates as they were preparing to hold a news conference.
Two of those arrested were representing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party. The third is a candidate for the Palestinian Democratic Union.
“It’s extremely welcome that the British Consulate in Jerusalem has made this statement that backs Palestinian elections and calls on Israel to facilitate them,” Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, told Arab News.
“The actions of the Israeli authorities in harassing and arresting candidates in East Jerusalem was outrageous,” he said.
“We hope that the consulate’s message will be repeated at the highest level — not just by a Twitter account — and that the foreign secretary and the prime minister will vigorously reinforce the message that Palestinians in East Jerusalem must be allowed to vote,” he added.
“East Jerusalem is part of the occupied West Bank and shouldn’t be cut off. To do so is to give informal approval to the illegal Israeli annexation.”
Regarding what more could be done by British authorities to ensure the success of the upcoming elections, Doyle said: “Britain will hopefully be sending election monitors, which will indicate that it’s taking these elections seriously and ensuring they take place in a fair fashion.”
He added: “If Israel decides to intervene in elections for other people, there should be consequences. Israel maintains that it’s a democracy, but here it is once again disrupting and delegitimizing elections for Palestinians.”
He said: “Palestinians can’t vote in Israel’s general elections, and now they’re being prevented from taking part in their own. It’s completely unacceptable.”
Julie Elliott, an MP for the UK’s main opposition Labour Party, tweeted that she totally agrees with the consulate’s message.
Fatah is currently leading Hamas in the polls. A survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in December found that 52 percent of Palestinians do not anticipate that the elections will be held freely.