Hamas leaders Ismail Haniya (center) and Yahya Sinwar (right) meet the chairman of the Palestinian central election committee Hanna Nasser in Gaza city, on Oct 28, 2019. (MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)
RAMALLAH/GAZA — The two Palestinian rival groups, Islamic Hamas movement and Fatah movement, traded accusations on Tuesday over the delay in setting a date for holding the general elections in Palestine.
The last parliamentary elections were held in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, in January 2006, when Hamas won an overwhelming majority. Mahmoud Abbas was elected as the Palestinian president in January 2005 to succeed late leader Yasser Arafat, who died in November 2004.
Abbas, leader of the Fatah movement, has the sole authority to issue the decree of setting a date for the new elections
Abbas, leader of the Fatah movement, has the sole authority to issue the decree of setting a date for the new elections. He earlier announced that the only remaining obstacle was that Israel has not granted permission to hold the elections in East Jerusalem.
A senior Palestinian official said earlier that the Palestinian Authority (PA) had officially applied to Israel for permission to allow the Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate in the upcoming Palestinian elections. The PA has not received any Israeli response yet.
Sami Refaei, member of the Fatah Central Committee, told "Voice of Palestine" radio that holding the elections in East Jerusalem "is a major condition and part of the political battle and the Palestinian jurisdiction."
He slammed Hamas' position "which neglects the importance of holding the elections in East Jerusalem as a national demand."
"Hamas' call for starting a broader national dialogue before issuing the presidential decree aims to disable, procrastinate and play with words and time," said Refaei.
He added that "the most prominent of which is that Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine and should not be subject to bargaining and extortion" by Israel or Hamas.
In the meantime, Hamas accused Fatah of using the issue of East Jerusalem "to cover the attempts of escaping from issuing the presidential decree for setting a date for holding the elections."
Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in an emailed press statement that its position "was clear and decisive from the beginning that elections should be held in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.""We must not surrender to Israel if it tries to prevent elections in Jerusalem. Rather, we must manage a political, media, and popular clash with the occupation in order to force it to hold the elections in Jerusalem," he said.
Qassem renewed Hamas' call for holding a broader national meeting that discussed the mechanisms of deciding the electoral process, mainly in Jerusalem.
On Sept. 26, Abbas said in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly that he intended to call for holding the general elections in the Palestinian territories.
In October, Abbas asked Hana Nasser, chairman of the Central Elections Commission, to start contacts with the Palestinian factions, including Hamas, on holding the elections. Nasser held marathon dialogues within the past two months until all parties agreed on holding the elections.
Despite the agreement, the issue on setting a date for such elections has not been settled.
Hani al-Masri, director of Masarat for Researches and Studies in the West Bank, said that issuing a presidential decree would help push up the possibilities of holding the elections.
"I don't think that Israel would accept holding the elections in East Jerusalem before holding the Israeli elections which might be held in March and before having a stable Israeli government," he said.
The internal Palestinian division between Hamas and Fatah that began in 2007, when Hamas forcibly took over the Gaza Strip from Fatah, has disrupted any previous plan to hold new elections in the Palestinian territories.
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