General Elections Postponed, PCHR Understands the Decision and Holds Israel Responsible
Date: 30 April 2021
Time: 13:00 GMT
On Thursday evening, 29 April 2021, the Palestinian President announced the postponement of the Palestinian elections until the Israeli authorities approve holding elections in occupied East Jerusalem, in parallel with all other Palestinian governorates.
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) completely understands the postponement decision and holds the Israeli authorities fully responsible. PCHR emphasizes that allowing Jerusalemites to practice their right in the general elections, including their right to vote, run for elections and election campaigning, constitutes the centerpiece for enabling Palestinians to enjoy their right to self-determination and the right to choose their representatives, which should not be in any way ignored or denied. PCHR believes that the current moment is a turning point in the history of the Palestinian cause and reveals the real intentions of the Israeli occupation on one hand and the credibility of the international community on the other in terms of its support for the two-state solution and Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Lawyer Raji Sourani, PCHR’s Director, commented on the postponement decision:
“Despite our full awareness of the significance of the Palestinian electoral process as a matter of democratic practice, as well as our understanding that guarantees of its periodicity must be provided after the 14-year disruption; its contribution in ending the shameful Palestinian political division and renewing the Palestinian political legitimacy, it does not mean that Jerusalem is for bargain and we will not give up our inalienable rights as guaranteed by the international law and UN Resolutions. The Israeli position explicitly demonstrates that Israel is an apartheid State par excellence, fully aware of its practices against the Palestinians.”
On 15 January 2021, the Palestinian President issued a presidential decree to hold presidential, legislative, and National Council elections consecutively after he received a promise from Europe to put pressure on Israel to allow holding elections in Jerusalem. The Palestinian leadership sent a letter to the Israeli authorities reaffirming its intentions to conduct elections in the West Bank, Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip in accordance with existing protocols. Similar to previous elections, Jerusalemites are scheduled to vote at six post offices in East Jerusalem, which hold a maximum capacity of 6,300 voters. This action requires Israeli approval due to post offices remaining under Israeli control.
There are still approximately 150,000 eligible Jerusalemite voters that are expected to vote throughout Jerusalem neighborhoods, which does not require Israeli approval, according to the Central Elections Commission’s (CEC) statement on 18 April 2021.
CEC legally, professionally, and masterfully implemented the decree and completed the two stages of registration and nomination in an effective and calm environment. The registration percentage exceeds 90%, revealing Palestinians’ yearning for practicing the democratic process. Moreover, everyone has practiced the right to run for elections on an equal footing, including Palestinians in Jerusalem, as 60 Jerusalemites ran for candidacy in a free environment that reflects Palestinian civilization as 36 lists ran for elections; most of them are independent.
It should be noted that human rights and civil society organizations persistently supported holding the elections and monitoring all its phases. Also, the Palestinian Election Cases Court considered and decided on many appeals.
It is worth noting that the Central Elections Commission was preparing to start the 3rd phase of elections on Friday, which includes the publication of the final lists and the start of electoral campaigning, noting that this phase precedes the polling phase that was scheduled to be held on 22 May 2021. In the midst of all these developments, the Palestinian President declared the postponement of the Palestinian elections after Israeli authorities banned its holding in occupied East Jerusalem, and the European Union (EU) failed to put pressure on Israel to allow holding elections in Jerusalem. Consequently, the Central Elections Commission announced the suspension of the general elections.
Since the beginning of the electoral process, the Israeli authorities prevented the Central Elections Commission from holding any election-related activities in occupied East Jerusalem and tightened its measures against any peaceful assembly organized in the city. They also chased and arrested candidates or anyone attempting to hold election-related activities. This is a clear denial of Palestinian presence in Jerusalem and an attempt to de facto impose Trump’s declaration – which contradicts international law- that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
PCHR monitored several incidents proving that Israel is seeking to ban the elections in occupied East Jerusalem; most prominent of which was on 17 April 2021, as Israeli authorities banned a meeting organized by CSOs and several candidates at St. George Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem, arrested some candidates and the meeting organizers; IOF also forcibly banned a peaceful assembly organized by the participants in the meeting in protest to its ban. Also, on 06 April 2021, Israeli authorities banned a similar meeting that was supposed to be held at the Ambassador Hotel in occupied East Jerusalem and arrested two candidates.
PCHR stresses the importance of Jerusalem’s participation in the elections, as it has political connotations relating to Palestinian national rights and Palestinians’ right in Jerusalem, to counter the deal of the century, the plans to create a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in Jerusalem.
Moreover, PCHR recalls the participation of Jerusalemites in the 1996, 2005 and 2006 elections.
PCHR affirms that East Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian city, and all measures taken by Israel in 1967 do not change its legal status as an occupied territory, as these measures are not recognized according to international law and Security Council resolutions.
Hence, PCHR holds the Israeli occupation fully responsible for depriving Palestinians of their right to choose their representatives, and calls on the international community to assume its responsibility and work hard to ensure elections are held in Jerusalem, including ensuring the right of Jerusalemites to participate in electoral campaigns and vote.
PCHR calls upon all Palestinian factions to work together at this pivotal moment to uphold Palestinians’ right in Jerusalem and thwart Israel’s attempts to realize the deal of the century on the ground.
PCHR believes that the Jerusalem cause and the inalienable rights of Palestinian people should be a motive for unity and an opportunity for collective and innovative Palestinian to counter the Israeli arrogance and the international silence conspiracy.