EU nations at UNSC: Israel must allow east Jerusalem Palestinians vote

Written by on April 23, 2021

Israel must allow Palestinians to vote in east Jerusalem, five current and former European Union members of the United Nations Security Council said on Thursday.

“We call on the Israeli authorities to facilitate the holding of elections across all of the Palestinian territories, including in East Jerusalem, in line with commitments made in the Oslo Accords as well as to facilitate the participation of international observers across all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” the countries said.

Estonia, France, Ireland, Belgium and Germany issued the statement in the aftermath of the UNSC’s monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Germany and Belgium ended their UNSC term in 2020, but still signed onto the statement.

Palestinian officials have threatened to delay or cancel the elections, citing Israel’s failure to respond to their request to hold the vote in Jerusalem.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas is “facing a real dilemma,” one official told The Jerusalem Post. “If he cancels the elections, he will be accused by his political rivals of depriving the Palestinians of the chance to elect their representatives. If, on the other hand, he holds the elections in Jerusalem, he will be accused of submitting to Israeli dictates.”

PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Britain to exert pressure on Israel to allow Jerusalem Arabs who hold Israeli-issued ID cards to run as candidates and cast their votes in the parliamentary and presidential elections, slated for May 22 and July 31 respectively.

Shtayyeh’s appeal came during a meeting he held in Ramallah with British Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the British consul-general in Jerusalem, Philip Hall.

The PA premier also called for putting pressure on Israel to allow international observers to monitor the elections.

“Holding elections in Jerusalem is a national and political necessity,” Shtayyeh was quoted as saying. “The issue is not only about the number of voters and their right to participate, but rather the Israeli recognition that Jerusalem and its people are part of the Palestinian political and national fabric.”

During the UNSC meeting held virtually, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland also called for the rights of Palestinian voters to be upheld, taking the PA, Hamas and Israel to task on the matter.

“All sides must provide for and protect the right of Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza to participate in credible and inclusive Palestinian elections, as well as to stand for elections, free from intimidation,” Wennesland said. 

“In particular, I urge all parties to refrain from any arrest, detention or interrogation based on freedom of opinion, freedom of expression or freedom of association,” he added.

PLO Ambassador Riyad Mansor focused on Israel when he urged the UNSC to help protect Palestinian voter rights in East Jerusalem.

“We urge your help in preventing any Israel actions that might obstruct these elections, notably in occupied East Jerusalem,” Mansour said.

“We have witnessed in recent days alone the arrest of several candidates, and the impeding or disbanding of meetings of parties and civil society. Such unlawful and irresponsible actions must stop at once,” he added.

“We have reached the moment of truth. The ability of Palestinians to campaign, run for elections and vote throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem, is enshrined in international law and in previous agreements. There is also a well-established precedent observed in all prior elections in 1996, 2005 and 2006 and it must be respected,” Mansour stated.

In Ramallah, British officials also met with Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA General Authority for Civil Affairs, and discussed with him the elections in Jerusalem and the ways of reviving the stalled peace process with Israel, Palestinian sources said.

The sources said the Palestinian leadership is expected to convene a meeting of leaders of various Palestinian factions in the coming days to discuss the crisis surrounding the participation of Jerusalem Arabs in the elections.

According to the sources, a final decision regarding the elections will be taken before April 30, when the election campaign period is due to start.

Wasel Abu Yusef, member of the PLO Executive Committee, said the inclusion of Jerusalem in the elections was of significant importance “because of the dangers facing the holy city.”

The Palestinian leadership is awaiting the results of its campaign to rally support for holding the elections in Jerusalem before it makes any decision regarding the postponement or cancellation of the vote, Abu Yusef said. “The position of the Palestinian factions is very clear,” he told the Voice of Palestine. “There will be no elections without Jerusalem.”

Hamas and some factions, meanwhile, expressed opposition to the delay of cancellation of the elections. “The talk about postponing the elections is totally unacceptable and illogical,” said Yusef Qazaz, a spokesperson for the Hamas electoral list for the parliamentary elections. “The elections will not be delayed, and the Palestinian people will not be punished again by having their elections delayed.”

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