With Palestinians on the verge of an uprising throughout the occupied territories, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may hand Israel a get out of jail free card if he decides to cancel the upcoming Palestinian elections, as many predict he will.
Next month, the Palestinians are supposed to hold their first Legislative elections in 15 years, on May 22, which would result in a Hamas-Fatah unity government. This comes as Palestinians have stood up in a unified fashion throughout the occupied territories against settler violence and violations committed by armed occupation police forces in Jerusalem.
It seems as if the demonstrations in Jerusalem are continuing but in the other territories they have quieted down, however, they will likely again escalate come the 28th day of Ramadan (May 10th) when the extremist Lahava settler group plans to storm the al-Aqsa Mosque. This could mean we will see the beginning of a new Intifada, which would greatly shake the Israeli political system.
But there seems to be one obstacle in the way of a unified uprising against the Israeli occupation, the prospect of further Palestinian political division, and this falls squarely on the so-called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
It has now been widely speculated that Mahmoud Abbas will declare a postponement of the coming elections, a move which could lead to a great political rift between rival parties Hamas and Fatah. Fatah is the party now heading the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and is led by President Abbas. Fatah has faced extreme internal divisions, which has led the group to splinter. After the announcement of several different Fatah lists, one of which is aligned with Mahmoud Abbas and perhaps a more popular one put together under imprisoned Fatah member Marwan Barghouti, it looks as though the unified Hamas list would come out with another landslide victory.
Mahmoud Abbas is clearly threatened by the prospect of his list being defeated by Hamas and later in the Presidential elections perhaps facing replacement by the likes of Marwan Barghouti. In the wake of this, his excuse to maintain power and cancel the elections, is the issue of East Jerusalem.
Close allies of Abbas have claimed that Israel has communicated its willingness to interfere in the elections if they try to go ahead in East Jerusalem, where roughly 350,000 Palestinians live. Israel considers all of Jerusalem as its so-called “undivided capital”, yet under international law East Jerusalem is illegally occupied territory. The claims of Abbas are that there cannot be elections without the inclusion of Jerusalem and whilst Israeli media claim that there has been no Israeli intention to interfere, the claims from the PA do hold some truth to them.
Israel, according to the Oslo Accords signed in 1993 and 1995, are supposed to facilitate a little over 6,000 votes being cast through postal stations in Jerusalem, whilst the rest of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem travel to the West Bank to cast their ballots. Israel has also been contacted by several foreign nations, including the European Union, to allow fair international monitoring groups to follow the course of the elections and verify their authenticity. Israel has not openly refused any such offers, but has instead refused to reply and by default violated its agreements and severely hindered efforts for international monitoring.
Israel also views the postal voting, which it had previously agreed to facilitate with the PA, as now being a “violation of its sovereignty”. This clearly runs contrary to the agreements they had signed and also international law, as East Jerusalem is not Israeli territory. But despite Israel attempting to obfuscate the true nature of its commitments and actions, this is something that has been well understood from the start by Mahmoud Abbas.
The truth is, Mahmoud Abbas is scared of losing, he doesn’t want to risk losing his cosy lifestyle and the position in which he resides. He fears losing US financing again, fears losing his connection with Israel, and fears Hamas dictating the terms for a new strategy to confront their enemy.
With this, Abbas could easily not only cause great tensions with Hamas, but also within other political parties, including Fatah itself. This would mean that instead of the attention being focused on Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, the efforts of the Palestinians would be focused more internally.
Abbas could have used the uprising over Jerusalem as a political tool, he could have stood up and led the Palestinian people into a larger uprising in order to force through the Palestinian elections, and in the process garnering the support of many critics – but instead he remained silent.
In fact, what Abbas is considering doing is robbing the Palestinians of one of the greatest opportunities to pressure Israel into making concessions we have seen since the first Intifada in 1987.
PA President Abbas is merely a tin-pot dictator contracted to make things easier for the Israeli occupation. If he cancels the elections without putting up a fight, taking the momentum away from the Palestinian people at this time, he will go down as the biggest collaborator with Israel in the history of the conflict.
It’s time to call this out for what it is. The PA under Abbas has single handedly destroyed the Palestinian cause’s strength, even symbolically amongst Arab Nations. There is no future under Abbas and his crooks if they cancel this election. If they have a modicum of decency, they will continue on with the election, and only then will they maintain an ounce of legitimacy. If not, they are the greatest threat to Palestinian freedom and human rights that currently exists.