The suspension of the Palestinian municipal elections is a pity. The Palestinian people deserve a united political leadership so that a single government can speak with one voice on the many grave crises that Palestinians have to deal with on a daily basis under occupation. The decision, earlier this year, to call municipal elections on October 8 across Palestine was a step in the right direction as it could have acted as a trigger to encourage reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. The Israelis were also deeply concerned that their decades of diligent work in ensuring deep mistrust between Fatah and Hamas might come unstuck.
So it was sad but not unexpected that the elections started to face problems. Despite the very modest powers and relative unimportance — there are municipalities in more than 400 cities and towns in the West Bank and Gaza — both the main parties became seriously worried that they would lose face in the eyes of their people. Fatah was haunted by the 2006 nightmare when it lost the legislative elections to a Hamas landslide victory, while Hamas feared that its miserable performance in delivering good governance in Gaza would give Fatah an edge in the Gaza elections.
As a result, both parties launched legal challenges on each others’ lists and just before the Eid Al Adha holidays, the Palestinian High Court of Justice in Ramallah suspended the elections in view of the legal challenges being unresolved. But it also cited a more curious reason — that these municipal elections were impossible because a vote could not be held in occupied East Jerusalem, even though it ignored the fact that the 2005 presidential elections, the 2006 legislative elections and the 2012 local elections all failed to include occupied East Jerusalem, but all those polls went ahead. The popular implication is that the court fell foul of political pressure from Ramallah.
This dangerous bickering between the two parties simply entrenches their divisions, even as the Israelis continue to enjoy their hegemony over Palestine. The continued expansion of colonies in the West Bank is a long-term plan to entrench Israeli control and violence between Palestine and Israel continues in Gaza as Israeli planes bombed three sites in the Gaza Strip with missiles, as a generalised retaliation for the launch of one missile from Gaza. In both the West Bank and Gaza, the Palestinians need stronger government, which can offer a unified response to these continuing Israeli assaults.