Palestinian group Hamas said on Wednesday it opposes delaying or canceling legislative elections set for next month, claiming Israel is responsible for the expected announcement by President Mahmoud Abbas to postpone the vote over disputes with Israel as to voting in East Jerusalem.
“The Jerusalem vote is a red line,” Hamas said in a statement carried by Palestinian media, “and no Palestinian should accept an election without Jerusalem, our eternal capital.” The group said the vote – the first since 2006 – should take place in Jerusalem even without Israel’s agreement, claiming the Oslo Accords allow that.
The official argument made in support of deferring the election is Israel’s opposition to voting in East Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in 1967 and over which the Palestinian Authority does not have jurisdiction.
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The Israeli government has not officially said whether it would permit polling stations to be established there, but Palestinian political sources say Mahmoud Abbas is interested in the postponement due to concern that his Fatah party would not secure the electoral victory that it is seeking.
According to Hamas, “elections must be held in Jerusalem” as a show of force “against the occupation,” amid heightened tensions in the city over the past weeks, with Palestinian residents and Israeli forces clashing in the Old City.
“We don’t take away responsibility from the occupation for delaying the elections,” Hamas added. Israel “bears responsibility for our people’s deprivation of rights,” it said, also taking a jab at “other international actors” who Hamas claims enable Israel’s policies against the Palestinians.
A Hamas political official told Haaretz the organization understands a decision had already been made. "It was clear that there were no elections and that Mahmoud Abbas has decided," the official said.
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He added Hamas doesn't plan a response that could risk a major escalation, such as rocket fire toward Israel. Meanwhile, Palestinian media reported a resumption of the Hamas unit launching explosive-laden balloons across the border, as a response both for the election delay and Israel's decision to close off Gaza's fishing zone.
Earlier on Wednesday, Palestinian officials have told Haaretz the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas’ rival Fatah party reached an internal decision to defer the parliamentary elections.
All of the Palestinian factions plan to meet later this week to discuss the issue and make an official decision on the elections, currently slated to take place May 22.
In an effort to pressure Israel to succumb to his request, President Abbas met Wednesday with European Union Representative to West Bank and Gaza Strip, Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff, in Ramallah.