Editor’s note:Welcome to the third edition of “Inside the PA,” a weekly on-line publication designed to provide an open-source and yet valuable insight into the workings of the Palestinian Authority. We will review important statements by senior PA officials and developments within Palestinian society as taken from the Palestinian and Arab media.
QUOTABLE “The Palestinian leadership will study this issue before making aresponse, for the responsibility is enormous”. PA Chairman Abbas raises the prospect of canceling PLC elections. NEWS DIGEST 1. ABBAS URGED BY FATAH TO POSTPONE ELECTIONS 2. PA: U.S. HAS NO RIGHT TO TEACH US DEMOCRACY 3. ABBAS ALLOWS JIHAD RADIO, SPEAKERS 4. PA MEDIA DOES NOT RECOGNIZE LOCATIONS IN ISRAEL 5. PA MEDIA PLAYS DOWN FATAH ATTACKS 6. EGYPT, ABBAS: BIRDS OF A FEATHER?
Abbas Urged By Fatah to Postpone Elections
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas may be about to cancel elections for the legislature.Abbas has met Fatah and Egyptian leaders to discuss the postponement or cancellation of elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council scheduled for January 25. Abbas has been torn between demands from Fatah – concerned about current Hamas electoral strength – to postpone the elections and appeals from opposition groups to hold them. In particular, Fatah in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas strength is greatest, has pushed for postponement or cancellation. Abbas is expected to decide this week during a visit to Egypt, where there is support in favor of cancellation. “The Palestinian leadership will study this issue before making a response, for the responsibility is enormous,” Abbas said on December 22, after he met Egyptian intelligence services chief Omar Suleiman, who encouraged him to consider a postponement. One of the issues that has been raised in connection with the elections is the question of whether Palestinians in Jerusalem would be permitted to vote. Israel, which said Jerusalem would not become part of the Palestinian Authority in any event, had said it would not allow voting in eastern Jerusalem; Israel additionally has been concerned about Hamas participation in the elections. That decision is still pending.On December 22, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade held a news conference in which it urged factions to reject any elections that does not include Jerusalem.PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has now declared that he will not run in the elections for a seat in the legislative council if Jerusalemites are not allowed to vote. In a press conference in Ramallah on December 24, he said, “without holding legislative elections in the 1967 occupied Jerusalem, it is unwise for us to have elections in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.” (From another reliable source, however, comes a report that Qurei is also protesting the Fatah list, which works against the “old guard.”)Hamas and 10 other Palestinian factions have insisted to Abbas that the issue of Jerusalem should not delay elections. “Postponement would end any credibility for the PA,” Mustafa Barghouti, head of the Fatah-aligned Independent Palestine List, told a news conference on December 21 in the West Bank city of El Bireh. “Elections are the way to save the political system from the deep crisis the PA is facing. The absence oflegislative elections for 10 years and local elections for 30 years is the main cause of the PA crisis.”Fatah reformers, however, appear divided over whether to hold elections next month. At a conference in Ramallah on December 20, leading Fatah members argued both for and against a cancellation. They included former PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad, who has appealed for the elections to take place on time.Leading aides of Abbas have already threatened to cancel the elections. PA Information Minister Nabil Shaath said on December 21, “If the Israelis insist on not allowing us to conduct the elections in Jerusalem, then there will be no elections at all.”Abbas has indicated that this was clearly a possibility. He said Israel must allow the same arrangements that took place in the last PLC elections in 1996. “This is a dangerous step and one that is important for the future of the Palestinian people,” Abbas said. “The parliamentary elections should be held in east Jerusalem as in 1996.”The European Union and the United States have raised the prospect that Hamas participation in the elections could result in a suspension of billions of dollars of aid to the PA. Both Brussels and Washington have called on Hamas to surrender its weapons and pledge to turn into a political party.The PLO Executive Committee, to date, maintains that PLC elections should take place according to schedule. The committee said on December 22 that all Palestinian parties would have the right to participate in the elections.PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has indicated that postponing elections could spark a Hamas revolt similar to that in Algeria in 1992. Erekat quoted Abbas as telling President George Bush during their summit in October that “only my death will postpone the legislative elections.”The committee also rejected any foreign intervention in the PLC campaign. At the same time, the PLO raised the prospect that violence would disrupt or hamper elections.”The committee called upon the Palestinian factions to abide by the calm and work jointly to conduct the elections on time, stressing that some practices of some Palestinian groups could justify Israel to escalate aggression and to curb the elections,” the official Wafa news agency reported. PA: U.S. Has No Right To Teach Us Democracy
The Palestinian Authority, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in 2005, has rejected the U.S. policy promote democracy. The PA-owned media have rejected U.S. programs to promote democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The media said the Bush administration cannot use democracy to infringe on Palestinian sovereignty.On December 19, the PA-owned Al Ayyam daily said that neither the Bush administration, Congress, nor even American professors have the right to teach democracy to Palestinians. The daily said in an editorial that neither the Americans nor the “enemy that occupies our land” should think that they can dictate participation in Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January.The newspaper said the issue was linked to Palestinian sovereignty. Al Ayyam said said PLC elections require the support of the international community, claiming in an editorial that only through competition can democracy be achieved.
Abbas Allows Jihad access to his media,
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas continues to allow Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups to openly operate in the Gaza Strip. Abbas has rejected Israeli and U.S. appeals to shut down radio stations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad that encourage terrorism against Israel. The stations have urged Palestinians to join terrorist groups and launch rockets against the Jewish state. One such radio station is Sawt Al Quds, owned and operated by the Iranian-sponsored Islamic Jihad. Broadcasting daily from a location in Gaza City, it reports on the latest terrorist achievements.Sawt Al Quds broadcast threats by Fatah-aligned terrorists of a barrage of missiles against Israeli cities. The radio quoted a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committee that Sderot would be the leading target.”Today, the calm has gone with the wind,” Abu Al Abir, a PRC spokesman, told Jihad radio on December 14.In July 2005, Sawt Al Quds broadcast a sermon by a preacher who praised Al Qaida suicide bombings in London’s mass transit system. More than 50 people were killed in the coordinated attacks.Jihad leaders have also been provided with forums in the most prominent institutions of the PA. On December 19, Jihad spokesman Khaled Batshe addressed a seminar at the PA-sponsored Al Azhar University in Gaza City.Batshe exploited his appearance at Al Azhar to preach violence. He told a seminar organized by the student council that the so-called lull in attacks against Israel would not be renewed.In the audience were leaders of other factions as well as key figures from the university. Al Ayyam reported on December 20 that student dean Dr. Salah Abu Hamid represented the university president.To stress its commitment to the Palestinian war, the PA-owned daily Al Hayat Al Jadeeda on December 19 ran a picture of an elderly woman holding her grandchild at a march by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in Gaza City. In one hand, the woman holds her a baby. In the other hand, the woman holds an AK-47 assault rifle.
PA Media Does Not Recognize Locations in Israel
The Palestinian Authority-owned media constantly refers to the Israeli occupation or Israeli policy. But the media almost never acknowledges that there is a location or community that is actually part of Israel. Instead, the PA media refer to areas or communities within the internationally-recognized pre-1967 borders of Israel as “colonies.” This includes communities such as Netanya and Nahariya.The Palestinian news agency Wafa termed the Israeli city of Kiryat Gat a “colony.” In a report from Washington on December 21, Wafa told of an effort by several pro-Palestinian groups to block Intel from building a facility outside Kiryat Gat. “CFL and Al-Awda revealed that Intel company is intending to build a $3.5 billion plant next to its existing facility in ‘Kiryat Gat’ colony,” Wafa reported. It quoted the two groups as saying that Intel and other companies that assist Israel would aid in the abuse of human rights and international law. CFL has been a participant in an effort bypro-Palestinian groups in the United States to end investments in Israel. PA Media Plays Down Fatah Attacks
The Palestinian Authority media have termed the internecine violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip the leading threat to national interests. Yet the PA-owned media either ignore or refuse to detail the latest attacks by Fatah and other gangs on PA institutions.In what appears to be an agreement on censorship, PA newspapers only mention internecine violence in passing. In most cases, the names or even affiliation of perpetrators are excised. Sometimes, the ruling Fatah movement is identified.As a result, Palestinians often learn of incidents through paid ads in the PA press. The governor of the northern Gaza Strip, Ismail Abu Shemala, placed a front page ad in Al Ayyam on December 20 that called for an end to the feud of two clans. At least six people were killed in gun battles in Bet Hanoun in December. Meanehile, the P reports that Abu Shemala’s met with all of the armed factions in northern Gaza to help end the fighting between the Al Kafarna and Al Masri clans. The meetings also included members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Interior Ministry and security agencies. The two clans were said to have reached an agreement meant to restore life to Bet Hanoun. The terms of the agreement belied a town paralyzed with fear because of the war between two families and the failure of the PA to restore order.Abu Shemala reported that the two clans agreed to end the demonstration of weapons and threats. The two clans also pledged to remove roadblocks in Bet Hanoun and enable schools to reopen.The two clans also agreed that they wouldn’t send their children to school in an effort to prevent renewed fighting. The agreement stipulated behavior if a member of one clan encountered another.Nowhere in the agreement is there a specific threat of arrest or prosecution of violators of the law. The agreement does not discuss any investigation of the six people already killed. In spite of this, the PA police continues to obtain funds from the international community.
On December 22, the PA and Sweden signed an agreement to fund aprogram to develop the Palestinian police. In a ceremony in Ramallah, Planning Minister Ghassan Khateeb said Sweden has donated two million euros to “reactivate the role of the Palestinian police in the Palestinian territories. Egypt, Abbas: Birds of a Feather?
The leading ally of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has been Egypt. Abbas travels to Egypt before and after virtually every international tour, in order to coordinate with President Hosni Mubarak.On December 19, it was time for Abbas to reward Egypt for its support and advice. Abbas, in a ceremony heavily covered in the Palestinian Authority media, awarded Egyptian ambassador Mohammed Abdul Aziz the so-called Medal of Honor for the Star of Al Quds.Egypt has been training and mentoring PA security forces in the Gaza Strip. The regime of President Hosni Mubarak has also been advising Abbas and meeting regularly with Hamas and Islamic Jihad to coordinate policy. Abbas under U.S., European pressure on elections Abdul Aziz was awarded the medal in Gaza City as he approached the end of his term of office. The PA media, quoting a report from the official Palestinian news agency Wafa, said the award was in appreciation of the efforts of the Egyptian ambassador to “support and deepen the brotherly and deeply rooted relations between Palestine and Egypt, leadership and people.”The Egyptian ambassador was also praised for ability to act in the highest spirit of responsibility during his work in Palestine. The report did not elaborate.