The Palestinian Authority has decided to postpone the upcoming elections and has informed representatives of the international community as well as Egypt of its decision, Army Radio reported Monday.
It is expected there will be an official announcement from Ramallah in the coming days, and the Kan public broadcaster reported that the Palestinian leadership was set to meet on the matter on Thursday.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been widely expected to postpone the May vote as well as the planned presidential election in July, which various opinion polls have him losing.
The vote, originally scheduled for 2010, sees his once-dominant Fatah movement under challenge from breakaway factions as well as Hamas. Sources from Gaza’s ruling terror organization told a Lebanese newspaper on Monday that the potential cancellation of the elections could lead to an escalation of violence.
Army Radio reported that the official reason to be given for the delay was Israel’s refusal to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the May 22 elections, the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years.
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.
The Palestinian election commission says 150,000 voters will be able to cast ballots on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, in a process that does not require a green light from Israel. And a symbolic 6,300 will get to vote within the holy city itself under Israeli supervision.
But Palestinian authorities fear that arrangement could still leave thousands of the city’s inhabitants disenfranchised.
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. About 60 candidates in the Palestinian elections are from East Jerusalem.
The United Nations and European members of the Security Council issued a call Thursday for Israel to permit all eligible Palestinians in East Jerusalem to be able to vote.
“It is very important that Palestinians in all parts of the occupied Palestinian territory are able to participate in this very important democratic process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Dujarric was echoing a statement issued by Security Council members Estonia, France, and Ireland, and former members Germany and Belgium, after the council’s latest monthly session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Agencies contributed to this report.