US source to Palestinian paper: Washington will understand election postponement

Washington would not object to a Palestinian Authority decision to postpone the legislative elections set for next month, an unnamed US source told the Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper Friday, adding that the potential boost to Hamas’s power could end prospects for a two-state solution.

The newspaper said voices in the PA calling for the postponement of the May 22 election were growing.

The anonymous “informed” source told the outlet: “Certainly, the United States supports and encourages free, fair, transparent and periodic elections everywhere if possible.”

But it was also aware of various challenges faced by the Palestinians, including the coronavirus pandemic, economic problems and the duality of rule between the West Bank, dominated by the PA, and the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Hamas terror group.

Former Fatah official Nasser al-Kidwa, center left, and Marwan Barghouti’s wife, Fadwa, center right, leave the Palestinian Central Election Commission office after registering their joint list for the upcoming parliamentary election in May, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (AP/Nasser Nasser)

He said he believed the Biden administration “will look with understanding at the possibility of postponing the elections for some time.”

In reference to Hamas, which is running in the elections, the source warned that “the rise of Palestinian forces that reject the two-state solution, reject abandoning violence, and refuse to stop the anti-Israel and US rhetoric, or abandon incitement — the rise of such forces to the decision-making position will complicate, or even completely dispel, prospects for the two-state solution.”

And he added that “all signs indicate that the multiple divisions within Fatah, and the quasi-tribal conflict between the various factions of Fatah, will reduce its ability to mobilize the Palestinians in a way that enables them to defeat Hamas.”

On Monday Fatah and other Palestine Liberation Organization factions said there will be no Palestinian elections without the participation of East Jerusalem Palestinians, in what some observers believed was an effort to lay the groundwork for canceling the election.

Palestinians have not held national legislative elections in over 15 years.

Israel cracks down on Palestinian Authority activity inside Jerusalem, considering it a violation of Israeli sovereignty in its capital.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah, September 3, 2020. (Flash90)

The Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the PLO outline specific procedures under which Palestinian elections are to be held, including provisions that commit Israel to allowing East Jerusalem Palestinians to vote at post offices in the capital.

The accords also state that every Palestinian faction in elections must accept the legitimacy of Oslo, which commits Palestinians to recognizing Israel and abandoning armed struggle. Some of the factions that have announced they will participate in the upcoming legislative vote — including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP — reject the Oslo accords.

Palestinian officials say Israel has yet to respond to a formal request to allow Palestinians to vote within East Jerusalem. Israeli authorities are unlikely to allow voting inside the city or campaigning by Palestinian candidates, especially the Hamas terror group.

Currrently some 93% of Palestinians are registered to vote and 36 parliamentary lists have been presented and approved.

But Abbas’s Fatah movement has grown increasingly fractured in recent weeks, with wildly popular Palestinian security prisoner Marwan Barghouti and former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s nephew Nasser al-Kidwa forming a rival slate of candidates against Abbas.

Rampant speculation has begun that Abbas — fearing a potential loss to his Fatah rivals or to a Hamas bolstered by internal Fatah divisions — will seek to delay or even cancel the vote.

Hamas officials have warned Abbas not to use Jerusalem or any other excuse to delay or cancel the current vote this time around.

“We refuse to postpone the elections on any pretext,” senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouq tweeted last week.

Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.

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