The path to the Palestinian leader’s election is full of risk

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s election call has jeopardized his political future, forcing him to negotiate demands to compete with a friendly US administration, his militants From breaking the Fatah movement with Hamas rivals to clear the rift and keep their unbridled.

The presidential decision, released last month, said it would be the first Palestinian election in 15 years, stemming from negotiations initiated last year with Hamas, which aimed to shore up the ranks amid unprecedented crises.

The Trump administration had cut all aid and proposed a Middle-East plan that favored Israel and allowed it to remove occupied parts of the West Bank. An American-brocade normalization agreement took over last summer between Israel and the United Arab Emirates but increasingly alienated Palestinians in the region.

Abbas began negotiations with Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seized Gaza from its forces in 2007. Those discussions culminated in the presidential elections held on May 22 and the presidential elections on July 31.

It is clear that the elections will actually take place. Doing so would require an agreement between Abbas’s secular Fatah movement and Hamas, which has been divided for more than a decade despite several attempts to reconcile. The two sides plan to meet in Cairo this week.

The outcome of the talks will largely depend on the 85-year-old Abbas. He non-violently sought a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem for decades, territories seized by Israel in the 1967 war. Instead, he has come to rule parts of the West Bank occupied by an increasingly autocratic and unpopular Palestinian authority.

Coherence with Hamas and holding elections can end its legitimacy and meet Western demands for accountability. But a limited victory by Hamas, considered a terrorist group by Israel and Western countries, could result in international isolation and the loss of significant aid – as in 2006 when Hamas won the last parliamentary election.

In a briefing with Palestinian journalists, EU Representative Sven Kuhn von Bergsdorf welcomed the call for election, but the EU refused to make repeated requests to react to the Hamas victory.

“Do you cart before the horse?” They said. “Why don’t we start with a horse.”

President Joe Biden has restored aid to the Palestinians and vowed to adopt a more equitable approach, but the Middle East conflict is likely to address more pressing crises like the coronovirus epidemic, and the US likely to engage with anyone Is not. The Palestinian government which includes Hamas. Even the government of independents supported by Hamas can cause problems for Western donors.

Elections can lead to the breakup of Abbas’s Fatah party. He has not prepared a successor, and may face the challenge of leading a popular Fatah leader, Marwan Bargouti, who is serving a five-year imprisonment in an Israeli prison for his role in the 2000 intifada, or rebellion.

“For Bargouti, running for president is the only way to get out of prison, or at least that’s what he thinks,” said Ali Jarbawi, a political science professor at Birjit University in the West Bank.

Abbas may also have to contend with Mohammed Dahlan, a Fatah rival who was convicted in absentia of corruption charges by a Palestinian court after being ousted by Abbas. Dahlan has the support of powerful allies in his native Gaza and the United Arab Emirates, where he lives in exile.

Palestinian political analyst Jehad Herb said, “So far all things are about being on one (Fatah) list, but it is unlikely that there will be two lists or even three.” “Or Bargouti can wait for the presidential election.”

Hamas will face challenges in elections, Where voters can attribute it to economic devastation in Gaza, which has ended three wars with Israel and the Israeli-Egyptian blockade since the militant group took power.

One idea to make the goal is to assemble a joint list of Fatah and Hamas, but to a large extent the results of the parliamentary election can be decided, questioning its validity before a ballot is cast.

Yara Hawari, senior analyst at al-Shabka, an international Palestinian think tank, says that if the elections go ahead there will be an “engineered result” that allows Fatah and Hamas to maintain the status quo.

Both Palestinian authorities have suppressed dissent through torture and arbitrary arrests In areas under their control, and Israel regularly detects Palestinian activists and cracks in protests and boycott movements.

“It’s already harsh,” Havari said. “If you have a society that is fully contested politically, it is regularly punished for political protest – which is already harsh.”

Unresolved issues between Fatah and Hamas can also be used as pretaxes to cancel or postpone elections.

The two sides still need to agree on a court to settle election disputes and have a mechanism to secure polling stations in Gaza, where Palestinian security forces have no presence as Hamas seizes power Was. The Palestinian Authority has also demanded that Israel allow Palestinians to participate in elections in East Jerusalem.

Khalil Shikaki, director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, said Abbas could cancel the election or blame Israel or Hamas.

“However, if Israel does not give him that excuse and Hamas has not given him that excuse, his hand will be forced and he will have to go to the polls,” he said.

Abbas, whose presidential term expired in 2009, is already facing a legitimacy crisis, and if elections are stalled, Western donors may reconsider their support. Abbas could face confrontation with the Palestinian public as well.

Sivaki said, “The process has its own dynamics, and although Abbas controls it, I think his calculations will have to be adjusted as to which options he will leave with if he decides to unilaterally cancel the election.” Shikaki said. “There will be significant disagreement about this within Fatah.”