JERUSALEM, Israel – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced early Friday morning his decision to postpone the upcoming Palestinian elections.
The elections, scheduled for May 22, were supposed to be the first Palestinian vote in 15 years. Abbas blamed the indefinite election delay on a dispute with Israel over the voting rights of Palestinians living in eastern Jerusalem – which Israel considers to be part of its unified capital.
Israel told European ambassadors on Tuesday that it will not prevent Palestinian elections, but did not say it will allow Palestinians living in eastern Jerusalem to vote.
“Faced with this difficult situation, we decided to postpone the date of holding legislative elections until the participation of Jerusalem and its people in these elections is guaranteed,” Abbas said. "There will be no concession on Jerusalem and no concession on our people in Jerusalem exercising their democratic rights.”
Abbas’ fractured Fatah is opposed to holding elections without these Jerusalem Arabs because it would mean accepting Israel's claim to eastern Jerusalem. They also argue it would discriminate against these Palestinians' rights to hold a vote without them.
But both Israel and Abbas could benefit from the canceled vote because Abbas’ Fatah party is projected to lose power and influence to Hamas – the Islamic terror group governing Gaza.
Israel does not want to see an election that would further empower Hamas in the West Bank – biblical Judea and Samaria – and eastern Jerusalem. And Abbas doesn’t want to lose.
An intelligence official told AP that the Palestinian factions are discussing the formation of a unity government instead that would include Hamas. Hamas said Abbas' decision “doesn’t agree with the national consensus and popular support and is a coup.” The terror group said it is looking for ways to force "the elections in Jerusalem without the permission of or coordination with the occupation.”
The decision to postpone the election could trigger violence. Ahead of Abbas’ expected announcement, the Israeli army’s Southern Command was already preparing for border unrest with the Gaza Strip and is closely monitoring the situation, Channel 12 said.
The report said Abbas already ordered Palestinian security services to be on alert amid concerns of protests or rioting in the West Bank. He also sent two of his senior advisors to Qatar and Egypt to ask the countries to pressure Hamas to reduce tensions.