Palestinians Boycott 'Useless' Jerusalem Mayoral Election

Arab residents of East Jerusalem say their choice is clear in an election next week for mayor of the holy city - they will again opt to boycott the poll.

"I voted in the past but it brought me nothing. I don't believe in their democracy," said Fawziyeh al-Kurd, a Muslim Arab born in Jerusalem 56 years ago.

Some 260,000 Arabs, most of them Muslim, live in Arab East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in a move that has not won international recognition.

As residents of what Israel terms "united" Jerusalem, Arabs in the city carry Israeli identity cards, giving them access to welfare and health services, and freedom of movement denied to Palestinians in the West Bank. But few have taken up the possibility of full Israeli citizenship.

Arabs in East Jerusalem can vote in the mayoral contest - in which only Jewish candidates are running - but few have in the past and most will probably heed renewed calls by the Palestinian Authority to boycott this year's Nov. 11 election.

Hatem Abdel Khader, an adviser on Jerusalem affairs to Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, said that by refusing to vote, Palestinians would demonstrate their opposition to Israeli occupation of the city.

"We cannot pay a long-term political price in return for short-term municipal services," said Khader, responding to some local Palestinian leaders who say participation in the election is the only way to secure equal rights in Jerusalem, which the war of 1948 left divided between Israeli and Jordanian rule.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of the state they hope to establish in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The status of the city is a main stumbling block in current peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel said Israeli authorities have expropriated some 6,000 acres from Arabs in East Jerusalem.