When the widely unpopular Abbas issued a formal decree ordering the elections in mid-January this year, many observers believed he was just trying to find some path to strengthen his legitimacy and stay in power.
Close Abbas advisers such as Hussein al-Sheikh, Majid Faraj and the wealthy businessman Nabil Shaath were said to oppose the move from the beginning because they fear that there are many inside Fatah and, of course, from Hamas that would take the opportunity to take all the Abbas team and proxies down.
Now that the elections will most likely be postponed, who is being blamed? Of course, Israel. The real problem is that Abbas firmly believed he could control the vote in May and July, but when a short time ago the convicted murderer Marwan Barghouti said that he would participate, “whatever it takes,” even from his cell, Abbas and his team started thinking that they could have a civil war rather than an election.
Abbas’s justification for delaying the election is based on the symbolic status of East Jerusalem. The Palestinians insist that an election cannot happen if Jerusalem is not included. The Oslo Accords stipulate that a symbolic number of Palestinians can vote at designated post offices. The other 150,000 would vote at ballot boxes in the West Bank.
Let’s see what may happen if there are elections, and what the reaction in the international community will be.
Abbas is corrupt and his administration has no popularity in the West Bank. But he has managed to stay in power and tries to use doublespeak to move forward. On one hand he says he wants peace, on the other hand he does not sit at the negotiating table and endorses terrorism, paying great amounts of money to those terrorists who kill Israeli civilians.
Marwan Barghouti wants to take power. He believes he can get out of jail and become the new Palestinian President. But who is Barghouti? He planned and executed several massacres of Israeli civilians. He organized the killing of Georgios Tsibouktzakis, a Greek priest in Ma’ale Adumim, and killed Israeli civilians; he directed a massacre in the Seafood Market in Tel Aviv, killing Israeli civilians; he sent suicide bombers to the Malha Mall; he planned and executed 33 attacks which murdered 21 people. This is Barghouti. This is the murderer who challenges Abbas and wants to lead the PA.
Researchers from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy have noted in a special report that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) have nominated candidates with criminal records, and Hamas has nominated other criminals who should be in prison for life instead of candidates in an election. Two examples are:
Jamal Muhammad Farah al-Tawil, a Hamas commander in the West Bank who planned multiple suicide bombings, including a 2001 car bombing in a Jerusalem pedestrian mall that killed 12 Israelis and wounded nearly 200.
Jamal Abd al-Shamal Abu Hija, who was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to nine life sentences for involvement in at least six bombings, including the 2002 Meron Junction attack in north Israel that killed nine and the 2001 Sbarro pizzeria bombing in Jerusalem that killed 15. He is also on the Hamas electoral list.
If relations between the Palestinians and the international community are based on the Palestinian commitment to nonviolence, the recognition of Israel and the acceptance of agreements, it is time to ask if the international silence is because they endorse criminals as possible leaders of the PA or if they will decide once and forever to repudiate the electoral participation of these convicted terrorists.
In this context, Abbas feels comfortable to claim there is no possibility of elections due to the restrictions in Jerusalem. It is false, but the international community sometimes has a tendency to accept these kinds of statements from Abbas. We can watch it in every U.N. agency meeting all the time. Less than a month ago, in the United Nations Union Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, Israel was vandalized by a resolution saying that Israel is guilty of “war crimes.” European and Latin American countries did not hesitate to vote such atrocity.
When are they going to face the reality of corruption in the PA, whose leaders stole vaccines two months ago, which were sent for medical doctors but were used to vaccinate the ruling officers during the tragedy caused by the pandemic?
When are they going to understand that candidates to lead a Palestinian State can be criminals like Barghouti or al-Tawil?
When will the international community, those who believe in real peace, stop harassing Israel in the U.N. agencies and push both Israelis and Palestinians to discuss face to face through a negotiating table?
When is the international community going to understand that corruption and criminals are not the solution for the Palestinian future? The Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt and Jordan have business and diplomatic relations with Israel. The Palestinian narrative boasting that no Arab country can have peace with Israel without a solution between them and the Israelis is obsolete.
The European and Latin American countries which insulted Israel in the UNHRC last month should react. And the great democracies too.
Eduardo Kohn, Ph.D., has been the B’nai B’rith executive vice president in Uruguay since 1981 and the B’nai B’rith International Director of Latin American Affairs since 1984. Before joining B’nai B’rith, he worked for the Israeli embassy in Uruguay, the Israel-Uruguay Chamber of Commerce and Hebrew College in Montevideo. He is a published author of “Zionism, 100 years of Theodor Herzl,” and writes op-eds for publications throughout Latin America. He graduated from the State University of Uruguay with a doctorate in diplomacy and international affairs. To view some of his additional content, click here.