JERUSALEM — When the Palestinian Authority known as in January for parliamentary elections, many Palestinians hoped the vote — the primary within the occupied territories since 2006 — would revive Palestinian discourse, re-energize the independence motion and finish a 14-year division between Palestinian leaders within the occupied West Financial institution and Gaza.
However these hopes have been dashed Thursday evening when President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority introduced that the vote, scheduled for Could 22, can be delayed indefinitely.
The information compounded an unsettled political dynamic throughout the occupied territories and the state of Israel, the place each Israeli and Palestinian societies stay racked by political stalemate and division, the place tensions are rising in Jerusalem and Gaza, and a return to peace negotiations seems much less doubtless than ever.
The official cause for the postponement was the refusal by the Israeli authorities to verify that it will permit voting in East Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel after the 1967 Arab-Israeli warfare. East Jerusalem is especially populated by Palestinians who take part in elections for the Palestinian Authority, a semiautonomous establishment that exerts partial jurisdiction in different components of the occupied territories.
“We determined to postpone the legislative elections till guaranteeing that Jerusalem and its folks participate,” mentioned Mr. Abbas in a speech in Ramallah. “We don’t hand over Jerusalem.”
However the postponement additionally served one other goal: Mr. Abbas was involved that if the election went forward, his celebration, Fatah, may lose floor to 2 Fatah splinter teams, in response to a Palestinian official and a Western diplomat briefed by the Palestinian management.
Israeli officers, in the meantime, have been involved that the elections would result in a higher position within the Palestinian management for Hamas, the militant Islamist group that wrested management of Gaza from Mr. Abbas in 2007, and which has by no means acknowledged Israel.
“It’s a massive mistake to go to those elections,” Kamil Abu Rokon, an Israeli common who oversaw administrative points of the occupation till earlier this month, mentioned shortly earlier than leaving his publish. “My suggestion is to not cooperate.”
Analysts additionally mentioned the Israeli leaders have been comfortable to maintain their Palestinian counterparts divided, because it undermines the Palestinians’ capacity to pursue a remaining standing settlement with Israel as a unified bloc.
Hamas condemned Mr. Abbas’s determination, describing it as a “coup” that lacked well-liked assist.
The event comes amid a risky interval throughout the West Financial institution, Gaza and the state of Israel. Israeli politics can also be at an deadlock, following an election in March — Israel’s fourth in two years — wherein each Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his opponents did not win a workable majority.
In Jerusalem, the scenario is tense, following a march final week by far-right Jewish supremacists who chanted “Loss of life to Arabs,” assaults on each Palestinians and Jews, and the provocative Israeli determination, now rescinded, to shut a central plaza in East Jerusalem the place Palestinians get pleasure from gathering in the course of the ongoing month of Ramadan.
That unrest broke months of relative calm in Gaza, the place militants fired dozens of rockets towards Israel final weekend to protest the scenario in Jerusalem.
The town is on the coronary heart of the pretext offered by Mr. Abbas to postpone elections.
Beneath the interim agreements signed within the Nineties between Israeli and Palestinian leaders generally known as the Oslo Accords, the Israeli authorities is obliged to permit Palestinian elections in East Jerusalem.
However Israel has neither blocked the election nor agreed to permit it. The Israeli authorities has not decided both manner, an Israeli official confirmed, regardless of requests by the Palestinian management. The Israeli police have detained a number of representatives of Palestinian events who tried to marketing campaign within the metropolis.
Palestinian officers mentioned that to proceed with an election with out East Jerusalem can be tantamount to giving up Palestinian claims on town and its sacred Islamic websites, together with the Aqsa mosque.
“It’s not that we are attempting to keep away from elections,” mentioned Ziad Abu Amr, deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, and an adviser to Mr. Abbas. “Jerusalem can’t be forsaken or deserted. You’ll be able to’t give up to the fait accompli that Israel tries to impose on Jerusalem.”
However insiders mentioned Mr. Abbas had an ulterior motive for postponement.
Lengthy the engine of the Palestinian nationwide motion, Mr. Abbas’s celebration, Fatah, now faces unprecedented challenges, not solely from its longtime rival Hamas but additionally from ex-Fatah grandees whose campaigns chipped away at assist for his or her former celebration.
Have been elections to go forward, Fatah’s supporters can be pressured to decide on amongst three Fatah-linked factions — the official celebration; a splinter group led by an exiled former safety chief, Muhammad Dahlan; and a second breakaway faction, headed by Nasser al-Kidwa, a former envoy to the United Nations, and Marwan Barghouti, a preferred militant serving a number of life sentences in an Israeli jail for 5 counts of homicide.
Within the most up-to-date ballot, Mr. Abbas’s faction nonetheless got here out on high, with a few quarter of the vote. But it surely was projected to fall far wanting an total majority as a result of almost as many citizens mentioned they’d vote for the rival Fatah teams. Hamas polled underneath 9 p.c.
No Palestinian official would admit publicly this week that these components affected Mr. Abbas’s pondering. However talking on the situation of anonymity, a Palestinian official and a Western diplomat briefed by the Palestinians mentioned that he feared shedding affect to his former allies.
And after Mr. Kidwa and Mr. Barghouti broke with Mr. Abbas in March, a senior Palestinian official mentioned in an interview with The New York Instances that the transfer put the elections in danger as a result of it risked undermining Fatah.
“Fatah’s scenario must be sturdy, it wants to steer the Palestine Liberation Group and the nationwide venture,” mentioned Wassel Abu Yousef, a member of the manager committee of the P.L.O., the official consultant of the Palestinian folks. “If there’s hurt to the nationwide venture, there shall be heavy and highly effective voices that shall be in favor of suspending the elections.”
Some Palestinians met the postponement with a shrug. Many felt the elections wouldn’t have occurred in a very free atmosphere, whereas some all the time suspected they’d be canceled. Others felt voting for a Palestinian Parliament would have little impact on the largest downside of their lives: the Israeli occupation.
Elections recommend “there’s a sovereign entity wherein persons are taking part in a democratic course of,” mentioned Yara Hawari, a senior analyst at Al Shabaka, a Palestinian analysis group. “However you may’t have a full democracy underneath occupation.”
Many Palestinians have been nonetheless livid at being disadvantaged of a uncommon likelihood to decide on their representatives. Crowds of protesters, a lot of whom have been too younger to vote within the final Palestinian elections, demonstrated towards the choice in each the West Financial institution and Gaza.
“The folks demand the poll field,” they chanted.
Muhammad Shehada, a 28-year-old unemployed civil engineer from Gaza Metropolis, known as the choice “an enormous disappointment.” The scenario in Jerusalem was no cause to cancel the elections, he mentioned: “The occupation controls Jerusalem, whether or not the elections are held or not.”
The dearth of elections additionally raises the specter of intra-Palestinian violence, since completely different factions will now don’t have any peaceable discussion board wherein to air their grievances and categorical their frustrations, mentioned Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Al Azhar College in Gaza Metropolis.
“Many Palestinians have been hoping that elections would ease the strain and friction between the factions,” mentioned Dr. Abusada. However the election delay, he mentioned, “will go away the Palestinians preventing towards one another.”
Iyad Abuhweila contributed reporting from Gaza Metropolis, and Irit Pazner Garshowitz from Jerusalem.