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Abbas has climbed down on holding the Palestinian elections, as usual

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas speaks in the West Bank's Ramallah on 3 September 2020, as he meets by video conference with representatives of Palestinian factions gathered at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut in rare talks on how to respond to such accords and to a Middle East peace plan announced by Washington [ALAA BADARNEH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas speaks in the West Bank's Ramallah on 3 September 2020, as he meets by video conference with representatives of Palestinian factions gathered at the Palestinian embassy in Beirut in rare talks on how to respond to such accords and to a Middle East peace plan announced by Washington [ALAA BADARNEH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images]

I was one of the first to predict that the Palestinian elections will not take place, from the moment that Mahmoud Abbas, the president of security coordination with the occupation, decreed their dates. That was my belief then, and it remains so now because I am aware of his deceitful character. He has made a number of climb-downs after drawing attention to himself with promises that he has never intended to keep — ending security cooperation with Israel is one, for example — simply to prove his presence to anyone thinking about taking his place. His "postponement" of the legislative election set for later this month is a euphemism for cancelling all three elections: legislative, presidential, and national council.

The excuse he has given is that he can't hold the election(s) without the participation of Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, and Israel won't allow this to happen. The occupied city has become the self-declared capital of the occupation state and is not subject to the authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

I mentioned in another previous article the impossibility of the occupation authorities agreeing to such participation. Was Abbas unaware of this obvious fact before he rolled up his sleeves and issued his election decree, or was this one of his usual charades of which we have grown so tired?

OPINION: Abbas vexes Palestinian political scene after unilaterally postponing elections

Holding the election without Jerusalem would confer some legitimacy on Israel's illegal annexation of the city. It would be as if we were giving the occupying state a symbolic deed of ownership by conceding sovereignty and thus getting involved in the "deal of the century".

There is no doubt that Jerusalem is the most important element in the entire conflict with the occupation state, and that its inhabitants are on the front line and must be supported and reinforced. We have witnessed their steadfastness and confrontations with the Israeli enemy many times, the most recent of which was the uprising on the first Friday of Ramadan which forced the occupation forces to open the Damascus Gate into the Old City. Of course, there is no way that Jerusalem can be excluded from the legislative or any other elections, as it is part of the occupied Palestinian territories and its indigenous inhabitants are an integral part of the Palestinian people. Their participation in the democratic process is a sovereign matter that cannot in any way be conceded. However, I am sure that Mahmoud Abbas did not postpone the election because of Jerusalem; this was an excuse to justify his decision.

Israel is arresting Hamas members ahead of the election - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel is arresting Hamas members ahead of the election – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Rifts, splits, and divisions within the Fatah Movement have risen to the surface. There are a number of election candidate lists, including supporters of Mohammed Dahlan, the Fatah official dismissed by Abbas. He is supported by the UAE and is posing a challenge to Abbas and his movement; he had a good chance of winning a number of legislative council seats and could even manage to dominate Fatah itself, which is what Dahlan has been seeking ever since he was thrown out of the movement. It seems obvious, therefore, that Abbas has cancelled the election this month simply because he is unwilling to hand over the leadership of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, both of which he heads as well as Fatah.

He announced the "postponement" when it became clear to him that his position was weak and his support base was fragmented, but he used the nation's central cause — Jerusalem — as a pretext for his decision. In doing so he basically insulted the intelligence of the Palestinian people. Before the Jerusalem excuse, remember, it was "we are unable to hold elections under occupation" as if he didn't know that his country is occupied before decreeing that the elections would be held.

Although he tried to claim that his decision was made in defiance of the occupation authorities, it was made unilaterally. This is the price of Hamas agreeing to elections without a prior agreement on the national liberation project, reform of the PLO, and the mechanisms of strategic decision-making.

I said in a previous article regarding Hamas that, "The insistence of the movement's leaders to play along with the election game in which Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the 'security coordination authority', and the Israeli enemy have involved it in is, in effect, throwing the movement into the unknown. Did they not think about this unknown future upon which they are gambling the last card in their possession? I do not think that any sane person in Hamas believes that it is likely to win the elections, as it did in 2006, which brought them the blockade, led to the division of the Palestinian people, and was a major reason for repeated Israeli military offensives against the Gaza Strip."

Has Hamas not learnt anything from all of this? What is its justification for taking part in the election process?

OPINION: The dangerous decision to 'postpone' the election is Palestine's moment of reckoning

It is strange that Hamas now opposes the postponement and insists on holding the election on time. I am beginning to pity Hamas's confused and, frankly, astonishing positions.

Abbas did not call for alternatives that would achieve the supposed goal of the elections, including national unity and overcoming division, nor did he set a national agenda to impose elections in Jerusalem upon the occupation, set an alternative date, or say anything positive at all.

I am certain that it is not in Israel's interest to hold Palestinian elections that would be a new weapon in the political struggle. Nor would it serve its interests for the elections to bring about greater influence for Hamas or new Palestinian leaders who wish to prove their ability to confront the occupation state better than their predecessor.

Israel refuses to hold polls in Jerusalem - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Israel refuses to hold polls in Jerusalem – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

The current scenario is what Azzam Al-Ahmad hinted at: elections will not take place until after Mahmoud Abbas dies. I would go as far as to say that even after his death, they still won't take place; other arrangements will be made. Liberation movements do not hold elections under occupation; the PA, though, cooperates with the occupation on a security level in exchange for personal privileges and gains.

The Palestinian elections were a dilemma and a reason for increased division among the Palestinian people; they were never a means to end the division. Indeed, the election decree was just a trick by Mahmoud Abbas, creating a prison under Oslo conditions. It was deeply regretful that Hamas agreed to enter this prison willingly, despite being a resistance movement.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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