Monday, January 02, 2006

PLAIN TALK: Palestinian elections postponed?

So, are they on, or are they off?

It’s looking like the Palestinian parliamentary elections, scheduled for January 25, will be postponed.

Palestinian Arab politicians must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Most Israelis aren’t much bothered.

PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been looking for a pretext to delay – what everyone expects to be – Fatah’s day of reckoning.

Abbas now says that Israel’s refusal to commit to allowing Arab residents of Jerusalem to vote by mail from Jerusalem-area post-offices is leading him to delay the elections.

Israel has been sending conflicting signals. Still, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon hasn’t explicitly announced that Israel would NOT facilitate the vote-by-mail system that has been previously used.

And I wonder if this Israeli ambiguity isn’t intended “help” Abbas.

The theory is what’s good for Hamas is bad – not just for Fatah – but for Israel and the West.

The inept Abbas been under pressure to postpone the elections – from various Palestinian quarters.

His own Fatah group is bitterly divided. Even the old guard (which came here from Tunis after the Oslo Accords in 1993) itself is fragmented with old Abu Ala off sulking.

And the young guard, led by Marwan Barghouti, Mohammed Dahlan and Jabril Rajub want to shove their way to the head of the syndicate's table.

For reasons I don’t really understand, Israel seems to be facilitating Barghouti’s involvement in the campaign. He’s sitting in an Israeli prison, convicted of multiple counts of murder, yet somehow manages to exert immense day-to-day influence.

With the Territories in turmoil and not much to show for the millions of EU and US dollars that have flowed into PA coffers, the ruling Fatah “party” feels it is in no position to face the “clean government” types from the Islamist movement Hamas.

Now it looks like Abbas has reached some kind of deal with Hamas which had been claiming all along that it opposed postponing the elections.

Maybe Hamas recognizes that the almost complete breakdown of law and order throughout the PA areas could delegitimize their predicted electoral gains.

What's the point of winning – especially if you can anyway win fair and square – in the midst of a riot?

Personally, I don’t care when the Palestinians hold their elections.

Their vote won’t contribute to a tolerant polity or moderate, representative government.

At the same time, I’m not convinced that a Hamas win would be such a bad thing.

Given that the war is destined to continue, because regardless of who wins, there really is no Palestinian partner, I'd rather do business with Hamas thugs who can at least deliver on a promise than ineffectual old terrorist in suits, or their corrupt, duplicitous younger guard.

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