PALESTINE: ELECTIONS DOOMED TO FAIL UNDER DIVISION

Futility Much Anticipated With Israel’s Occupation

By Khalid Amayreh

Journalist — Occupied Palestine

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Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas talks during a news conference after his meeting with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak at the Presidential palace in Cairo October 20, 2009, (Reuters Photo)

In a measure that has already vexed the internal Palestinian political arena, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmud Abbas has called for “presidential and legislative elections” to be held in the Occupied Territories of the West Bank, East Al-Quds and the Gaza Strip on January 24, 2010. The decision is expected to widen and deepen the  state of contention between Fatah and Hamas, the two largest political groups in occupied Palestine.

Fatah, which have been in control of the PA security agencies connived  with Western powers and also  Israel against Hamas after the Muslim liberation group won the 2006 elections.

This prompted Hamas to oust Fatah militias from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.

The cold-bloodedness between the two sides has evolved into a kind of unprecedented enmity as all Arab, especially since Egyptian efforts to reconcile the two groups have so far failed.

It is not exactly clear what prompted Abbas to embark on this feat now, especially with reconciliation efforts going nowhere and with the current Israeli government of Benyamin Netanyahu refusing to freeze Jewish settlement expansion despite constant American demands.

Hamas which controls the Gaza Strip, has castigated the decision to hold elections without consultation or coordination with Hamas, as a “grave blunder that would have serious repercussions on the Palestinian national cause.”

For his part, Abbas sought to defend his decision, arguing that the elections were a “legal, national and constitutional imperative.”

To this, Hamas retorted that it is futile to speak  of constitutional imperatives when Israel controls every street and corner in the West Bank, and when Abbas himself, as the head of the Palestinian Authority, cannot even move from his office in Ramallah to the next street without getting Israel’s consent beforehand.

Palestinians, Hamas argued, must not get themselves accustomed to the “normality” of living under the Israeli military occupation.

Objective Facts

 

This means that Israel, not the PA, has the final say in all matters pertaining to elections. If Israel says “No”, Abbas obviously cannot do much. He will probably succumb to the Israeli decision, and perhaps complain to Israel’s guardian-ally, the United States.Hence, it is probably safe to say that Israel will not allow  the organization of real, fair, and transparent elections in the West Bank and East Al-Quds if the Jewish state does not receive an “appropriate price” from the weak and vulnerable PA government.

In 2006, when Israel felt that Hamas was poised to win Palestinian legislative elections, it unceremoniously rounded up hundreds of pro-Hamas candidates for PA parliament and local (municipal) councils.

In the West Bank, nearly all elected Muslim MPs were arrested and sentenced to lengthy periods of imprisonment ranging from 32 months to 48 months. Their only “crime” was their participation in elections under the umbrella of a “terrorist organization”.

On October 26, 24 MPs, including formers ministers, such Sheikh Nayef Rajoub, are still languishing in Israeli dungeons on no ground other than the fact that they earned the trust of their people in a fair election that was okayed by Israel and the United States and meticulously observed by observers from around the world.

This means that there is no guarantee whatsoever that Israel will not resort to the same draconian measures again. If so, one would really wonder if it is wise to hold elections under such conditions.

Police State Without a State

To be sure, Israel is not the only obstacle impeding the organization of fair and truly democratic elections. The PA itself is very much a police state without a state.A police state because there is a nearly total absence of the rule of law in the West Bank as human rights and civil liberties are routinely and constantly violated.

And “without a state” because the PA has no sovereignty of its own and is thoroughly subservient to Israel’s whims.

Needless to say, an atmosphere of fear now prevailing throughout the West Bank inhibits organizing truly democratic elections.

People suspected of holding “non-conformist” views, such as sympathizing with Hamas, will be dragged to jails and interrogation dungeons where they are often beaten, humiliated, and even tortured.

At least 10 pro-Hamas sympathizers have been tortured to death at the hands of PA interrogators since 2007.

In addition, thousands of people have been detained and hundreds are still languishing in PA jails without charge or trial.

The police state atmosphere is so rampant in the West Bank today that a petty act like hoisting a green Islamic flag bearing Islam’s article of faith (I bear witness that there is no God but Allah, and that Muhammed is His messenger) is enough to make one  land in a PA interrogation center.

Hence, it is only logical to question the plausibility, let alone wisdom of holding elections under such circumstances.

This is not to say that “elections” cannot be organized at all. They can, but it is highly likely that they would be seriously rigged in daylight, although this would not prevent the PA’s Western donors and bankrollers , such the United States and the United Kingdom, from haling the elections as “democratic and honest”.

 

Hard Questions

The PA leadership claims that it will respect the outcome of the elections, regardless of which party wins the polls. However, any serious observer of the Palestinian arena can hardly take this claim for granted.

Let us suppose for the sake of argument that Hamas would win the elections, even by a narrow margin. Would Fatah then cede power to the victorious party?  Would the United States and Britain and Israel’s Western allies come to terms with the results? Would Israel recognize Hamas as the true representative of the Palestinian people? Would the American-trained PA security forces agree to be answerable to the new government?

Obviously, the answer for all these crucial questions is absolutely “No”.
It is amply clear that Abbas is not intending to hold elections for the elections’ sake.

His ultimate goal is to avenge Fatah’s defeat in Gaza more than two years ago, as well as to outmaneuver Hamas into a serious  political predicament.

Ultimately, Abbas wants to get rid of Hamas as a key political player at the Palestinian arena in order to be able to give Israel all or most of the concessions it is now demanding without  facing any serious Palestinian opposition.

Abbas and his aides did try to achieve this ominous goal, namely to decapitate Hamas in 2007, in concert with US intelligence through such people as Elliot Abrams and Keith Dayton.

However, Hamas managed to outsmart them when its “Executive Force” defeated and ousted Fatah’s militias from the entire Gaza Strip.

Moreover, Fatah and Hamas differ sharply on the entire rationale behind the elections. Hamas views the elections as part of an overall program for resistance that would eventually enable the Palestinian people to wrest freedom from the Israeli occupation.

On the other hand, Fatah views the election as an opportunity to “settle scores with Hamas” and to willy-nilly re-impose the group’s erstwhile hegemony over Palestinian lives, using a variety of stick-and-carrot tactics.

Fatah is bent on remaining in “power”, a term which in the Palestinian context is devoid of any real meaning since the PA has no real power and only functions as a submissive sub-contractor for the Israeli occupation.

In light, there is no doubt that holding elections in the West Bank  under the present circumstances would seriously complicate and exacerbate the internal Palestinian crisis and might lead to an irreversible divorce between Gaza and the West Bank.

Certainly, this is not what most Palestinians want.

 

1 Comment

  1. October 28, 2009 at 16:48

    […] PALESTINE: ELECTIONS DOOMED TO FAIL UNDER DIVISION « Desertpeace desertpeace.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/palestine-elections-doomed-to-fail-under-division – view page – cached October 28, 2009 at 7:07 am (Associate Post, Corrupt Politics, Fatah, Hamas, Israel, Palestine) — From the page […]


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