The possibility that the Palestinian legislative election scheduled for next month maybe postponed is dominating the news about the internal debates. The chances of such a scenario increase daily with suggestions that the “deciding moment” may be upon us within a week or ten days at the latest.
It becomes clearer with each “initiative” or “statement” that the postponement decision, once it is made, will be due to Fatah’s own situation and the fears within its leadership that the election and new Legislative Council will slip out of its hands. Even if the “national movement” wins the majority of seats and the “Islamic movement’s” chances of a landslide victory, reproducing the 2006 scenario, become slim, the leadership’s ability to tighten its control over the components of the “national movement” will not be the same. This dictates the necessity for new tools and approaches for governance and control, as well as for forming and monitoring governments, and reviewing their decisions, policies, and legislation.
If the Palestinian Authority succeeds in containing the “arrogance” of the European Union and its desire to stimulate the course of the election, which is what the Palestinian foreign minister is now attempting to do in European capitals, it will not have a problem with keeping the ballot boxes locked away. Neither its Arab neighbours in Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf, nor the US will have an issue with a postponement. The Biden administration’s main concern is having a government in Ramallah that recognises Israel, abides by previous agreements, and renounces violence.I do not rule out the possibility that the PA and Fatah are using backdoor channels to test the waters with Hamas regarding any “deal” to postpone the legislative and other elections. This is something that Hamas does not necessarily want, but will not object to if it receives tempting offers from its rival, either in terms of the reconciliation government or the status of Hamas in Gaza, along with the list of well-known demands regarding employees, power-sharing, reform of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and so on.
If postponement goes ahead because of Israel’s refusal to let Palestinian elections be held in Jerusalem, they may never take place for many years to come, as long as the PA and some factions agree to allow the religious far-right and neo-fascist government in Israel to have a veto. This kind of decision will spread frustration and despair among the Palestinians and will continue the erosion of the PA’s legitimacy, the spread of carelessness, and the aging of institutions.
There are two matters that raise suspicion and doubt about the PA’s behaviour and performance. First, it is acting as if it has been taken by surprise at Israel’s refusal to hold elections in the occupied holy city. Moreover, it is relying on the prisoner movement to support its desire to postpone the elections.
All possible scenarios for Jerusalem’s Palestinian voters should have been reviewed before the presidential election decree was issued, but this did not happen. There was only general talk about transforming the Jerusalem issue into a battle to defend the capital of Palestine. Those who formulated the prisoners’ initiative should have been better at hiding the main goal of the postponement proposal, as the terms of the initiative itself revealed that it came as a result of the divisions within Fatah, and not because of Israel’s refusal to allow elections to take place in Jerusalem. The initiators’ top concern is to regain the unity of the movement, specifically involving Marwan Barghouti and Nasser Al-Qudwa, and propose holding the Palestinian elections in the American style, with Abbas as president and Barghouti running as his vice president, as if Palestinian politics begins and ends with Fatah alone.
I think that the postponement decision will kill the spirit of the Palestinian people, which has been demonstrated by the massive take-up of voter registration — 93.3 per cent — and the number of candidate lists (36). The postponement will block the dynamic interest that could disturb the stagnant swamp of Palestinian “duality”. It could also destroy the hope in the souls of the Palestinian refugees and those in the wider diaspora of an imminent resurrection of the PLO.
As long as the old order refuses to leave, the new will be unable to emerge, leaving the Palestinian situation heading for more stagnation until the Almighty reveals what has been destined for us.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Addustour on 20 April 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.