The United Nations issued a statement Sunday calling on the Palestinian Authority to set a date for the Palestinian elections to be held. This statement follows the announcement on Friday by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas that he would once again postpone the elections in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Abbas was last re-elected in 2006, and there have been no Palestinian elections since that year. Part of the reason for the ongoing delays in holding elections is the fact that the Israeli government, which rules the Palestinian Territories under martial law and has done so since 1967, has refused to recognize the results of the 2006 election, in which the Hamas party (the rival to Mahmoud Abbas’ Fateh party) won the majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature.
Since the Israeli military government does not approve of the Hamas party, they have refused to deal with the Palestinian Authority in certain areas in which Hamas is involved, and have frequently and repeatedly abducted elected Palestinian Parliament members who are affiliated with the Hamas party.
In this case, the elections, which had been set to take place on May 22nd (legislative election) and July 31st (presidential election) were postponed because of uncertainty as to the status of Palestinians in Jerusalem, and whether Israel would allow them to be able to vote.
Palestinians in Jerusalem hold a unique status in the world – they are citizens of no country, and cannot hold a Palestinian passport because the Israeli military authorities will not permit it. Because of the Israeli government’s stated objective of taking over Jerusalem for the state of Israel, many of the policies enacted by the Israeli government are aimed at stripping Palestinians in Jerusalem of their residency rights.
Any Palestinian landowner in Jerusalem who leaves their home for any period of time, for example, forfeits the ownership of their land to the Israeli government.
According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his announcement of the election delay on Friday, “Facing this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people is guaranteed”.
In response, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, said that he understood the “disappointment of the many Palestinians” about the delay. He called on the Palestinian Authority to “continue on the democratic path” and said that these elections have “widespread international support”.
Wennesland added, “This will also set the path toward meaningful negotiations to end the occupation and realize a two-State solution based on UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.”
He called on Abbas to set a new date for the Palestinian elections – especially considering that the last elections took place more than 15 years ago.
Some Palestinians, however, have pointed out the absurdity of voting for a Palestinian Authority that wields no real power, given the fact that the West Bank and Gaza are, in reality, not governed by the Palestinian Authority, but are governed by Israeli martial law.