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Palestinians postpone elections – again!

Aug 25, 2011 | Sharyn Mittelman

This week the Palestinian Authority (PA) cancelled local government elections for the fourth time. This lack of democracy is a clear sign that the Palestinians are not ready for statehood.

Elections were scheduled for January 2009 but did not occur, then they were supposed to be held in July 2010, but were cancelled by the PA “for the sake of public interest.” In February, elections were scheduled for July 2011 and then were cancelled “until better conditions are available” and rescheduled for October 22. This week PA President Mahmoud Abbas issued a decree postponing them again – “indefinitely”.

Last year, the Palestinian ‘High Court’ ruled that the cancellation of these local elections was illegal, but the court was unable to enforce its order.

Meanwhile, parliamentary elections are also overdue.  President Abbas was elected in January 2005 and his term ended in January 2009. The Palestinian parliament was elected in February 2006 and its term should have ended in January 2010. While Hamas and Fatah agreed in their unity deal in May on elections for early next year, that deal has largely fallen apart, and almost no one expects the elections to go ahead.

While a variety of reasons may be given for the stalled elections, including the dangerous possibility that Hamas would win an election in the West Bank, and the inability for free and fair elections in Hamas-controlled Gaza – the fact remains that the current ‘government’ not only lacks a democratic mandate today, it has never made elections of any sort much of a priority. And this naturally casts doubt on the Palestinians claimed readiness for statehood.

Rick Richman comments in Commentary writes:

“When you have an unelected “president” who rules by decree; when your “High Court” is a Potemkin one; when your president repeatedly cancels even local elections; when a terrorist group allied with Iran holds half your putative state; when you are trying to “reconcile” with the group you previously promised to dismantle; when you have been offered a state three times in the last decade, refused each offer, and won’t come to the negotiating table to receive a fourth… you just might not be ready for a state.”

Elliot Abrams writes in the Weekly Standard:

“Palestinians therefore face, and face us with, an interesting situation: Just as they are about to go to the U.N. to demand recognition, they are farther from free elections than they have been since the day Arafat died. This will not complicate their situation in the U.N., where there are no democratic standards. But for Americans, the Palestinian demand for ‘freedom’ must mean more than ‘end the Israeli occupation.’ One of the key insights of the Bush administration was that a Palestinian state was not a worthy goal when it meant creating a vicious, corrupt Arafat satrapy.”

It seems ironic that while with advent of the ‘Arab Spring’, the international community champions the cause of free and fair elections in the Middle East, the world appears unconcerned by the lack of democracy in the Palestinian territories. With democracy seemingly breaking out in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan and Morocco, even in Syria, the fact that the PA and Hamas are both unwilling to hold elections should send a strong message to the international community that the Palestinians are not yet ready for statehood.

Sharyn Mittelman

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