Palestinians Ask Israel to Let East Jerusalem Residents Vote in PA Election

East Jerusalemites voted in the last election in 2006, a year before Hamas took over in the Gaza Strip ■ Israeli ministers to discuss request

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, center, attending the funeral of former senior Fatah official Ahmed Abdel Rahman in Ramallah, December 4, 2019.
Abbas Momani / AFP

The Palestinian Authority asked Israel on Tuesday to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the PA’s planned parliamentary and presidential elections, a request that Israeli officials said would now go to the security cabinet.

Israeli officials say the PA asked under the assumption that Israel would refuse, so Israeli officials are considering how to respond. An Israeli rejection could prevent or delay the elections because the Palestinians do not want to be portrayed as relinquishing their claim to have the capital of a Palestinian state in Jerusalem.

Hamas won the last parliamentary election in 2006. A year later, the group staged a violent takeover in the Gaza Strip; it still rules there, with Fatah dominating the PA government in the West Bank.

The PA has asked that residents of East Jerusalem be allowed to both vote and run in the elections, as was the case in 1996 and 2006. The Palestinian factions tend to agree over the holding of the vote, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is waiting for an answer from Israel on the East Jerusalem question before releasing a presidential order to hold the elections.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the PA had asked a number of countries to put pressure on Israel to allow voting in East Jerusalem.

“We are unable to accept a situation in which the Palestinians in Jerusalem are prevented from participating in the elections,” he said. “This is a national priority and Palestinian policy. Not holding the elections in the city and Palestinian neighborhoods means accepting the separation of Jerusalem from the rest of the Palestinian areas.”

The PA and Hamas have been calling for elections for years, but the lack of trust between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza has helped stymie the plan.

In recent months, the Palestinian factions have advanced a new initiative for holding the vote, and the chairman of the Palestinian central election committee, Hanna Nasser, has visited Gaza a number of times and met with representatives of the factions, including Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. In the past week, Nasser said there was agreement in principle over holding the elections under conditions that would guarantee a democratic vote.

Fatah Deputy Chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul said Tuesday that his organization was keen to hold the elections so that the Palestinian people would choose their representatives and end the split. Aloul, who met with officials from the British Foreign Office Tuesday, said the Palestinian factions expressed support for a vote; the main challenge is to include East Jerusalem.

Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanoa said his organization had shown great flexibility and had expressed a willingness to hold the elections. He said Hamas was waiting for the presidential order.