A senior adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that the upcoming Palestinian national elections are “very likely” to be postponed if Israel does not allow voting in East Jerusalem.
Nabil Shaath told the An-Nahar newspaper that if Israel continues to ignore the PA’s request to hold the elections in East Jerusalem, “the electoral process will be postponed.”
He noted PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki has been dispatched to Europe to push for international pressure on Israel on the issue.
The Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state, while Israel considers the entire city its undivided capital and bars any PA activity from taking place in the city.
Israel has yet to say whether it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, which it captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed in a move not recognized by most of the international community. The Oslo Accords, a series of bilateral agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, stipulate that Palestinians can vote at designated post offices throughout Jerusalem.
Shaath’s comments came a day after the Palestinian Elections Commission said most Palestinians in East Jerusalem will be able to vote in next month’s elections, regardless if Israel permits voting in the city.
The commission said some 150,000 residents will be able to vote in what Palestinians call the “Jerusalem suburbs” — towns and villages that ring the capital. Israel defines these areas as lying in the West Bank, while the Palestinian Authority see them as part of its “Jerusalem Governorate.”
The announcement came as momentum builds for the scheduled Palestinian legislative elections, which are scheduled to take place on May 22.
Despite the diplomatic bluster, opponents of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have charged in recent days that the widely unpopular Abbas, fearful of political defeat, is using a tacit Israeli refusal to back away from holding the vote.
Abbas’s Fatah movement faces stark internal divisions, leading to fears of a loss to the Hamas terror group.
Abbas announced in mid-January that the Palestinians would hold their first elections in over 15 years. Palestinians last went to the ballot box in the 2006 legislative elections, which led Hamas to a landslide victory over Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Palestinians are scheduled to head to legislative elections next month and then to presidential elections on July 31.
Aaron Boxerman contributed to this report.