Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Ramallah hoped all relevant parties would cooperate in order to hold parliamentary elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
Since a PA court in December called on Abbas to announce new elections for the Palestinian legislature, the aging Palestinian leader has pledged on more than one occasion to do so.
“We are preparing for parliamentary elections in the coming period,” Abbas said, speaking at a press conference in Ramallah alongside Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca. “We hope everyone will cooperate in order hold them in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.”
It was not clear who exactly Abbas was referring to, though he presumably meant Palestinian factions, Israel and the international community.
The Palestinians have not held legislative elections since 2006, when Hamas won 74 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council, the now-dissolved PA parliament.
Abbas, however, said earlier in January that if Israel did not allow parliamentary elections to take place in East Jerusalem, he would not accept holding any elections at all.
Israel allowed parliamentary elections to take place in East Jerusalem in 1996 and 2006.
Asked if the Jewish state would permit the Palestinians to hold legislative elections in East Jerusalem, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred questions to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. A spokesman for Erdan said Israel “clearly will not permit” the Palestinians to hold legislative elections in East Jerusalem.
Israel considers all of Jerusalem to be a part of its sovereign territory.
In the past month Abbas has met twice with Hanna Nasser, the head of the PA Central Elections Commission. The PA president has asked Nasser to go to Gaza in order to carry out an “honest dialogue” with Hamas and urge it to agree to parliamentary elections, Fatah Central Committee member Hussein al-Sheikh told Palestinian TV last week.
Hamas, a terror group committed to Israel’s destruction, has controlled Gaza since it ousted the Fatah-dominated PA from the territory in 2007.
Hassan Yousef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, said that while the group generally supports holding elections, it maintains that the Palestinians should simultaneously hold a vote for the legislature, presidency and the Palestine Liberation Organization’s largest body, the Palestinian National Council.
Yousef, who also is a Hamas co-founder, told the Times of Israel: “We also believe participating in elections requires the PA to stop pursuing and arresting our members.”
Abbas has not indicated an intention to call for elections to the presidency or the Palestinian National Council.