Palestinian list fails to win any seats on Jerusalem city council

The ‘Jerusalem, My Town’ party led by Ramadan Dabash garnered only some 3,000 votes — 1.2% of total; needed more than twice as many

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

Ramadan Dabash, a Palestinian resident of Sur Baher running for Jerusalem's city council, at his second home in Beit Hanina, July 2018 (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)
Ramadan Dabash, a Palestinian resident of Sur Baher running for Jerusalem's city council, at his second home in Beit Hanina, July 2018 (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

The sole all-Palestinian list that ran in last week’s local vote in Jerusalem failed to win a single seat on the city’s municipal council.

Jerusalem, My Town, led by Ramadan Dabash, received 3,001 votes, some 1.2% of the 250,675 ballots cast for lists in Jerusalem, according to non-final results posted on the Jerusalem Municipality’s website.

Jerusalem, My Town would have needed to receive a minimum of approximately 8,086 votes to gain one seat on the council, according to calculations based on the preliminary results.

(In Jerusalem’s mayoral race, the two candidates who performed best last week, Moshe Lion and Ofer Berkovitch, will compete in a runoff on November 13.)

Last Tuesday on election day, polling stations in East Jerusalem were largely empty with the exception of those in Jerusalem’s Sur Baher neighborhood.

For example, at a polling station in Abu Tur, only 25 people had cast ballots as of 3:15p.m., a polling worker, who asked to remain unnamed, said.

“The results show the pressure against voting in the elections won,” Amnon Ramon, a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Policy Research, said in a phone call. “I think there is a readiness in East Jerusalem to participate and vote in these elections. But with the great pressure against voting in them, which includes threats of violence, most of the people decided not to cast ballots.”

A panoramic view from the top floor of Ecce Homo on January 3, 2018 affords views of the Dome of the Rock sanctuary and churches in Jerusalem. (Melanie Lidman/Times of Israel)

Ramallah-based Palestinian officials had called on Palestinians in East Jerusalem to maintain their long-held boycott of local elections.

“Participating in the elections will help the Israeli establishment in promoting its ‘Greater Jerusalem’ project… and play a complementary role in implementing its colonial settlement plan and ethnic cleansing operations,” senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Saeb Erekat said in a statement in June.

Some Palestinians also threatened violence in Facebook posts against people planning to participate in the elections, and a Palestinian religious institution issued a legal opinion in July against running or voting in them.

Throughout the past several decades, many Palestinians in East Jerusalem have boycotted elections in Jerusalem. In the 2013 local vote, fewer than one percent of Palestinian in the city cast ballots.

However, a recent poll had indicated that more Palestinians in East Jerusalem intended to vote in the elections last week.

In a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey research in June, twenty-two percent of Palestinians in East Jerusalem said they planned to cast votes in the elections.

Dabash, who focused his campaign on providing greater services to Palestinians in East Jerusalem, did not respond to multiple requests for comments.

Gilad Israeli, who served as Dabash’s adviser, said while Jerusalem, My Town failed to gain a seat on the council, it brought more voters in East Jerusalem out to the polls compared to past years.

“While we did not succeed in changing the overall behavior of voters, we did succeed in substantially increasing the number of voters in the eastern part of the city in relation to previous years,” he said in a phone call. “I hope we have started a trend that will continue to grow in the next five years and translate into to a much higher turnout in the next election.”

The next municipal elections in Jerusalem are slated to take place in 2023.

A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said she expects the final results of the Jerusalem vote to be released in the coming days.

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