The United Nations and European members of the Security Council called Thursday for Israel to permit all eligible Palestinians in East Jerusalem to be able to vote in the first Palestinian legislative elections in 15 years.
Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem are due to vote on May 22 ahead of a planned presidential election in July that various opinion polls have Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas losing.
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.
“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.
“We stand ready to support free, fair, and inclusive elections across the occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and welcome the constructive engagement by the Palestinian factions,” they said.
A senior adviser to Abbas said Tuesday that the national elections are “very likely” to be postponed if Israel does not allow voting in East Jerusalem.
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.
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.