Palestinian Authority (PA) President, Mahmoud Abbas, announced in January, that Palestinian legislative and presidential elections will take place later this year. Since this announcement, questions have been raised as to whether the election will end up doing more harm than good, with Western interference and rejection of the results likely to take place, as well as possible offensive action by Israel against Gaza.
When the PA’s Mahmoud Abbas issued the decree that elections would take place, this instantly caused debate amongst Palestinians as to how the process would look and what real change the results would effect.
The last round of elections took place in 2006, making it 15 years since the last democratic election had taken place inside the occupied Palestinian territories. However, the absence of democracy is not the fault of the Palestinian political party alone, as what happened in 2006 was sponsored by the United States, Israel, the UK and EU.
In 2006, Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections over their Fatah rivals in a land slide victory, as part of a democratic process which was called for by former US President George Bush Jr. himself. The elections were dubbed “completely fair and honest” by the likes of former US President Jimmy Carter, however the US, Israel and the EU all refused to recognize this democratic decision and shortly after began to administer draconian sanctions targeting the elected government, which they described as a “terrorist organisation”.
What ensued was not only sanctions upon Gaza, essentially amounting to a blockade, but also a US funded coup attempt in 2007 against the democratically-elected Hamas government. In order to drive Hamas out of power in Gaza, the US decided to finance Fatah forces led by now outlawed Mohammed Dahlan, in order to violently remove Hamas from power. This sparked what was known as the Palestinian civil war, a bloody inter-Palestinian conflict which was completely backed by the United States and endorsed by Israeli intelligence, which we later learned from Wikileaks released cables.
If you are a reader in the United States, take a moment to reflect upon the above mentioned occurrence. The United States government, which will censor and paint anyone not accepting the results of the 2020 election as a domestic extremist, actively refused to acknowledge the election results in Palestine and financed a coup to remove those who rightfully won the election.
Ultimately, the attempted Fatah party’s US-backed coup attempt failed and Hamas in turn seized control of Gaza – in the framework of occupation which cannot be conflated with full autonomy – which Israel then used as a pretext for their 14+ year-long illegal besiegement of the territory.
So not only was the United States instrumental in creating the conditions which led to the imposition of Israel’s illegal siege on Gaza, but also destroyed the prospects for future democratic elections in Palestine, until now.
Last year, in response to Donald Trump’s so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ and the threats from Israel to annex territory inside of the West Bank, all Palestinian factions came together and agreed on a framework under which they would unify and eventually work towards elections from within.
Since the 2007 civil-war, every time both Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political parties, have attempted to restore ties and unify, either Israel has launched an onslaught against Gaza, or the talks have broken down before any real agreements are reached or implemented. For instance, in 2014, prior to the 50-days of slaughter in Gaza – amounting to 2,202 Palestinian casualties – Fatah and Hamas had began to come together and entered a dialogue in order to reach a unity agreement. However, when Israel declared war on Gaza, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority distanced itself from Hamas for fear of punishment from the West, as Hamas was using armed resistance against Israel (which is legal under international law when under occupation) and was unjustly dubbed as having committed terrorism.
The last meaningful attempt to unify the Palestinian political foes, was in 2017, when a power-sharing agreement was reached but never implemented and resulted in the PA punishing Gaza economically.
Now, in the advent of the election decree, there is yet another sign of hope that unity could perhaps be reached, despite the fact that most are skeptical due to the repeated let-downs of the past. But if this is the case, that the elections will take place at the very least, what is the likelihood of the results even being implemented?
Likely Outcomes Of The Election Process
Firstly, it is unlikely that Hamas would accept the terms under which the PA (in the unlikely case that they were to win in Gaza) would take control of the Strip. The PA have repeatedly stated that in order for them to take over, they require that Hamas demilitarize and essentially allow for Israel to become the all-powerful dictating force that they currently are in the West Bank. Hamas would not allow for this to happen, and even if the leadership decided to concede on this issue, those amongst its ranks would overthrow them quickly.
It is also difficult to imagine a world in which the Western-Israeli aligned Palestinian Authority, would accept a Hamas win inside of the West Bank, over which President Mahmoud Abbas currently presides. A Hamas rule in the West Bank would also be met with instant rejection from Israel and would likely spark a round of violence, as well as the eventual further sealing off of the occupied territory. Israel views this land as ‘Judea and Samaria’ and swears it to be part of ‘Eretz Israel’; essentially meaning that the settlements, which the entire world consider as illegal, are the same to Israel as Tel Aviv. If Hamas controls the West Bank, it is guaranteed that they will take up the banner of armed resistance in the territory and this will put Israel’s illegal settlement project at genuine risk.
This brings us to the next point, which has been largely brushed over by most in the mainstream press, and that is the prospect of Israel preventing these elections from even starting at all. If Israel fears the possibility of a Hamas win in the West Bank, it could easily use its get out of jail free card and declare war on Gaza. Another war on Gaza would likely destroy the prospects for any fair Palestinian election and would mean that Israel could again get away with preventing democracy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Then there is the additional question of whether the West, which claims it supports the Palestinian elections, will recognize any win other than their Palestinian Authority puppets. Virtually every other Palestinian political party is a designated terrorist organisation in the US, Israel and most EU countries. So, if Palestinians can only have their votes recognized if and when they “choose” the only allowable party, what is the point of even holding elections, in terms of reaching the wider world and attempting to reach a solution?
The one Palestinian political faction to have stepped out of this whole process has been Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), which says they rejected the whole situation based on this falling under the the Oslo Accords, which the group refuses to recognize.
Then we have the problem of whether this election will cause a hostile breakup of Fatah all-together, with Mahmoud Abbas, Mohammed Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti all potentially running for President, as part of Fatah. The party is already deeply divided and on the verge of fracture, so will this just mean more internal bickering and lead to further harm for the Palestinians?
There are so many unanswered questions when it comes to these proposed elections, which leads many Palestinians to doubt their usefulness. Yet despite all the doubts, most Palestinians when polled still say they will participate, with many putting the percentage above a 90% intended turnout.