JERUSALEM (AP) – Egyptian officials say the Palestinian Authority plans to postpone its first election in 15 years, citing Israel’s refusal to allow voting in East Jerusalem.
The decision would effectively give Israel a veto over the election, although President Mahmoud Abbas could also benefit from the cancellation of the vote, which would see his broken Fatah party lose power and influence over Hamas.
An Egyptian diplomat and intelligence official said they had been informed of the decision, which would be announced at a meeting of Palestinian factions on Thursday. They said Egypt was in talks with Israel to reach a compromise to allow the vote, but those efforts have so far failed.
Late Monday evening, they spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door talks.
The intelligence official said that Hamas wanted the election to go ahead, but that no faction wanted to continue without guarantees from the international community that voting would take place in the east of Jerusalem. The official said that the factions are discussing instead of forming a unity government, which will include Hamas.
The Palestinian Electoral Commission says 6,000 voters in East Jerusalem must cast their ballots through Israeli post offices under previous agreements, while the remaining 150,000 could vote with or without Israel’s permission.
The small number of voters seeking Israeli permission is unlikely to have a decisive influence on the vote, but their turnout could be symbolic of maintaining Palestinian demands east of Jerusalem. Israel did not say whether it would allow them to vote.
They also give Abbas an excuse to cancel the parliamentary elections because his Fatah movement will suffer bad losses. Fatah has been split into three rival lists, paving the way for Hamas to emerge as the largest party in parliament.
Israel և The international community, which considers Hamas a terrorist group, will also tacitly welcome the postponement or cancellation of the vote.
Israel captured East Jerusalem, along with the West Bank, Gaza, in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want all three territories for their future state; they consider East Jerusalem as their capital.
Israel seized the eastern part of the city with an internationally unrecognized move. It considers all of Jerusalem as its capital and prohibits Palestinian Authority from operating there. The fate of the city was one of the hottest issues in the peace process, which stopped more than a decade ago.
Tensions have risen in Jerusalem in recent days as Israeli police clashed with Muslim worshipers over restrictions on Ramadan rallies.
Associated Press writer Sammy Magdin in Cairo contributed to this report.