Abbas set to meet Qatari emir in Doha to discuss election efforts

Gulf state was Ramallah’s second biggest Arab backer between January and September, also cultivates close ties with Hamas

Adam Rasgon is a former Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha on August 9, 2018. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Doha on August 9, 2018. (Wafa/Thaer Ghnaim)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Qatar this week to meet Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and discuss efforts to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, a senior Palestinian official said on Sunday.

Qatar, a wealthy gulf emirate, maintains contacts with the PA, the Hamas terror group and Israel.

“The president will visit Doha this week and likely meet the emir on Tuesday,” Palestine Liberation Organization Executive Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad told The Times of Israel. “They will discuss the overall situation in Palestine and specifically the issue of elections.”

An official in Abbas’s office, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed that Abbas would travel to the Qatari capital in the coming days.

In late September, Abbas told the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City that he would call for general elections in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

He has since met with the head of the PA Central Elections Committee, Hanna Nasser, on several occasions.

Meanwhile, Hamas has declared it was ready to participate in legislative and presidential elections and has stated it was prepared to make some concessions to allow the vote to take place.

Abbas’s Fatah party and Hamas have been at loggerheads since the terror group ousted the PA from the coastal enclave in 2007. Many efforts to reconcile the two sides have failed.

The PA has not held parliamentary or presidential elections since 2006 and 2005, respectively.

Both Fatah and Hamas have said they would not participate in elections that do not include East Jerusalem.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Doha on August 21, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO/ PPO / THAER GHANEM)

While Israel has previously allowed Palestinians to vote in PA elections in East Jerusalem, which is under its jurisdiction, it has not indicated whether it would allow for a vote to take place in the future.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond to a request for comment.

The Oslo Accords, agreements signed by Israel and the PLO in the 1990s, set out a mechanism to enable Palestinians to participate in elections in East Jerusalem, which the Jewish state considers part of its sovereign capital.

Ahmad, who is also a Fatah Central Committee member, said that Abbas was going to Qatar at the invitation of Doha.

The PA president last visited Qatar in May 2019 when he met Tamim.

Qatar was the Ramallah’s second biggest Arab backer between January and September 2019, according to PA Finance Ministry documents.

But PA officials have expressed ire over hundreds of millions of dollars that Doha has recently contributed to various projects in Gaza, including the payment of Hamas-appointed employee salaries.

PA officials have claimed that Qatar did not coordinate the distribution of a large part of those funds with them.

Separately, Abbas welcomed Prince Ali bin al-Hussein, Jordanian King Abdullah’s half brother, to the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Sunday.

Ali, who is the head of the Jordanian Football Association, arrived at the presidential headquarters aboard a Jordanian helicopter, the official PA news site Wafa reported.

Abbas awarded him a medal in “appreciation of the major role he has played in advancing and developing sport on the local, regional and international levels, his efforts to strengthen Jordanian-Palestinian relations and [his] support of Palestine and its just cause.”

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