Attempts to postpone the Palestinian elections or cancel the vote have failed, in spite of the kidnappings, threats and excuses. But why did senior officials in the Palestinian Authority, led by the prime minister and supported by armed factions, which threatened to sabotage the elections, do so?
Fatah fears defeat. Its leadership is well-aware that Hamas will be the biggest winner if Palestinians have their say. This is why Ahmad Qurei, the prime minister announced that the elections would not take place as long as Israel prohibits the inhabitants of East Jerusalem from voting. According to his vision, Israel and himself would ensure Hamas does not succeed, by using the Palestinian vote in East Jerusalem as an excuse. Qurei thereby allowed this Israeli condition the chance to prohibit Palestinians from taking part in the eagerly awaited vote. Unfortunately for the opposition, Israel has accepted to allow Palestinians living in East Jerusalem to take part in the elections, under certain conditions, therefore making the excuse worthless. The elections will now take place as planned.
It was a poor excuse for an ignoble objective which is to cancel the elections in order to avoid defeat. It justified holding on to power and was not related to the national objective of granting the Palestinians in East Jerusalem the right to vote. The same applies to Fatah splinter groups who were terrified of defeat and the possibility that Hamas might partner them in power. This is why they warned that no elections were possible as long as the occupation continued. What a preposterous excuse! Israeli supports this view and claims that elections will harm the peace process as Hamas will undoubtedly emerge victorious.
It is no exaggeration to say that President Mahmoud Abbas needs the elections as much as his prime minister opposes them and as much as Fatah’s factions are seeking to sabotage them. Abu Mazen will face a new situation in the aftermath of elections that might bring Hamas to power and distance allies. One of the biggest opposition parties, Hamas, will become part of any future peace and take part in negotiations, concessions, ceasefire and war.
Hamas’ entry into the political process has negative and positive aspects. The latest outcome serves inter-Palestinian civil peace, which is currently threatened and requires mending, before liberating occupied Palestinian land. If Hamas joins the political process, the next government would represent all Palestinians and provide the people with a greater chance to supervise the administrative and financial dealings of the cabinet, long criticized by its adversaries. A coalition government would also transform Hamas into a more realistic and responsible organization.
As for the negative aspects, they depend on whether President Mahmoud Abbas can dictate his policies and supervise the cabinet. If he appears weak, the Palestinian Authority will have to suspend its peace endeavors. Israel might use this as an excuse to sabotage the negotiations which are expected to lead to the creation of an independent Palestinian state. These outcomes are unlikely since Hamas’ entry into the political process indicates that it seeks to participate in and not boycott the government. Israel’s silence reflects its recognition that Hamas has changed from a rebellious faction to a partner in government and can no longer be ignored.