[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]

 

December 31, 2005

 

This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora

 

 

A united Fateh list

 

By the second of January, 2006, the Central Election Committee, will announce the names of all contestants and lists for the January 25, 2006 elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council * PLC *. It will include the twelve national lists contesting 66 seats on a proportional basis, and the remaining 66 seats to be contested on the local level in the sixteen districts of the PA in East Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza.

 

Fateh finally overcame its internal differences and President Abbas was able to present a united Fateh list for the proportional part of the elections. Marwan Barghouthi, from his prison cell, will head this list. A united Fateh expects to garner more than thirty seats. The expectations are high within the movement of their ability to win with the other half, the district elections, more than half the total PLC with 132 seats.

 

The polls though does not indicate that, and political analysts believe that if Fateh wins more than forty seats it will achieve a credible result that will allow Fateh to continue to hold the rein of power and form the next cabinet in coalition with the third option lists and independents. This will leave Hamas to lead the opposition.

 

Kidnappings

 

The PA image continues to be tarnished with its inability to uphold law and order, and implement security. Kidnapping of the British human rights activist, Kate Burton and her family in Rafah, sharply demonstrates that lawlessness and anarchy prevail in the Gaza strip and that the PA is unable to take control from the warlords and gangs that abound there.

The ceasefire

 

The “tahdea”  ceasefire brokered by Egyptian minister Omar Suleiman will lapse by the end of December, 2005. Until this very minute, no new agreement has been concluded to prolong the ceasefire. All major PLO and Islamic organizations have declared the resumption of the military struggle as of January 1, 2006. This creates a quandary, is it possible to conduct the PLC elections and fight simultaneously? From even a purely technical point of view, the answer is no, because East Jerusalem and the whole of the West Bank are under Israeli security control, and under longstanding established Israeli policies, this will trigger military closures and more check posts that will hinder movement and hamper the PA from conducting elections.

 

Hamas has an interest in allowing the elections to take place; its leaders understand that their movement will emerge from the elections with enhanced status and a sizable number of PLC seats. The discontinuation of the ceasefire does not serve their purpose and would harm their efforts to demonstrate their true strength. Fresh efforts by Egypt, most probably, will find a willing ear on part of Hamas and Fateh to extend the ceasefire in order to allow the elections to proceed as scheduled.

 

Islamic Jihad will probably abstain from such a new agreement or at most pay lip service to it. Islamic Jihad policies are based on continuing the armed struggle in order to grow and be able to compete with Hamas and Fateh.

 

Is Abbas in control?

 

So far President Abbas has won his argument that his policies of containment are the only right approach. The international community is giving his option the benefit of the doubt, while expecting a firmer approach as soon as the elections are over. Abbas so far has been to some extent able to bring all the fractious elements of the Fateh movement together, but at the end of the day, it all depends on Fateh winning enough seats to form the next government after the elections. The election results are in doubt, and Abbas might find himself at the head of an authority with his party sitting on the opposition benches. Even the EU and the Quartet, has threatened, that if such a scenario will emerge, the PA will be left with few friends and no economic support.