[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
December 24, 2005
This week in Palestine….. Behind the news with Hanna Siniora
The forth round of local elections
It was not a complete surprise that Hamas won in the large important cities in the West Bank, the surprise was how extensive the Hamas victories in Jenin, Nablus and Al Bireh, Where Hamas now has the rein of power. Even in Ramallah, like previously in Bethlehem, The PLFP plus independents won six seats, the Fateh list six and Hamas three seats. The PLFP and Hamas usually form a joint coalition and Fateh will be in opposition. The probability is that a woman, Ms. Angela Khoury, would be the first Palestinian women to be a mayor of a major city in Palestine, let alone the temporary capitol and the most important economic center in the country, Ramallah.
Fateh was able to achieve better results in the villages and outscored Hamas to balance the results of the elections. Analysts would not be surprised if in the last round in local elections Hamas will win big in Gaza City and Hebron thus controls major cities in Palestine. Certainly the split within Fateh reflected in to competing lists for the legislative elections that might take place in January 25th, 2005, caused the electorate to look for stability and good governance away from Fateh and lean toward Hamas.
The newly elected mayor of Nablus, the major city in the North of the West Bank Adli Ya'ish, an observant but independent business man, was acclaimed by all those who new and dealt with him. Mayor Ya'ish is expected to lead Nablus toward stability, prosperity, clean local government, and better services. Even an Israeli business man, who had long standing, almost thirty years of business ties with Mayor Ya'ish uploaded his election as good for Nablus and for better relations with the business community in Israel. A resent poll in Israel indicated that fifty percent of Israelis ask their government to negotiate with Hamas in the eventuality of Hamas winning the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections. Possibly Hamas as a result will form the next government in Palestine. While the Israeli public does not oppose negotiating with Hamas, this is not the case with officials in Israel, the USA, and to some extend in Europe. European Foreign Minister Solana warned that the EU will stop aid to the PA if Hamas will be in the next government.
The PLC national elections
After the big bang in Israel, with Sharon departing the Likud and forming Kadema, another equally earth shattering political split took place with in the Fateh movement when it presented two separate slates to the central election committee for the coming PLC parliamentary elections. President Abass presented the Fateh official list composed of 47 candidates. This caused the young guard in Fateh to revolt and present a counter list headed by the imprisoned Fateh leader Marwan Barghouthi. This list included Gaza's strong man Mohammad Dahlan and the National Security advisor Jibril Rajoub in the competing Fateh list composed of 36 candidates that has the backing of the rank and file in Fateh. This was a big blow to the leadership of President Abass and additionally contributed to the loss of Fateh in the forth round of local elections.
After a lot of internal debate in the movement, Mahmoud Abbas gave legitimacy for two lists representing the Fateh movement in the coming PLC elections. Lately in ordered to close ranks and avoid defeat - if the Central Election Committee will allow the reopening of nomination for a few hours. The demand to open comes as a need to compensate for closing its bureaus temporarily as a result of the offices being occupied by armed Fateh dissidence (a case is pending in front of the election court of appeal and the decision is not yet out). Abbas and Barghouthi agreed on a compromise that will allow them to present a unified Fateh list. It’s doubtful if such an attempt will succeed in producing a unified list, this would not end the rift in Fateh. A unified list might allow Fateh to achieve a better result for the sixty six seats that are going to be contested through the proportional part of the elections. However, the other 66 seats will be elected in the local districts of the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem. In those lists unsatisfied Fateh candidates will run as independents, thus divide the vote and allow Hamas to win a larger portion of the districts votes.
The issue of East Jerusalem, where the Israeli authorities have declared that they are not allowing the Hamas candidates to run, might lead to the postponement of these elections. So far Hamas in East Jerusalem has not declared the existence of such a list, although among the thirty-nine candidates running in Jerusalem, several are known to be Hamas backers. It is possible that Hamas will allow it's nominees to run as independents thus avoiding a confrontation with the Israeli authorities. An attempt is being made to create a consensus list composed of the different members of the national movements and have it declared as the only list in Jerusalem. All the Palestinian national movements have declared that Israeli attempt to prevent elections in Jerusalem will jeopardize the election process and is causis belli for postponing the election.
President Abass has constantly declared that he wants to hold the PLC election on time despite the internal rift in Fateh movement. A recent statement by Hamas and ten other Palestinian organizations to Mahmoud Abass calls to avoid postponement of the PLC elections even if Israel prevented East Jerusalem from voting. Hamas and the ten organizations, Fateh not among them, asked Abass to work toward exerting international pressure on Israel to ensure East Jerusalem participation in the elections. If Abass fails, they ask him to find other alternatives. The issue of preventing Palestinians participation in East Jerusalem will cause a postponement of the elections.
IPCRI policy paper
The Israel-Palestine Center for research and information circulated a policy paper on how to deal with the issue of security in the reality of a lack of respect of law and order in the PA. The IPCRI paper suggests the need of involving Egyptian and Jordanian forces at the request of the PA, the UN and Quartet. The initial reaction coming from the spokesperson of the Interior Ministry, Tawfiq Abu Khaussa is rejection of the proposal as it jeopardizes the sovereignty of the PA. It is too early to discount such a development because it depends on what course President Abass will take after the elections. Abass often declared that his policy would lead to “one gun and one authority” in Palestine, it’s to be seen if Abass has the ability and willingness to implement such policy. It is certainly more preferable that the PA enforces law and order on its own than through the assistance of outside troops. However as a last resort in order to allow the peace process to proceed, concrete steps have to be taken by the PA or by others.