Foreign interference in Palestinian elections | Palestine News
As the Palestinians begin their countdown to their general legislative and presidential elections in May and July this year, foreign actors appear to be increasingly interested in shaping their results. This started to worry the Palestinian leadership.
On February 16, Major General Jibril Rajoub, secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, told Palestinian television that some Arab countries have made efforts to interfere in Palestinian elections and Fatah-Hamas reconciliation talks.
Three days later, Bassam al-Salhi, secretary general of the Palestinian People’s Party and member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, noted in an interview for the Arabi21 website that: “Many countries will pump huge sums of money because they want to have influence in the Legislative Council. We are facing interference from many countries, Arabs and foreigners.
Although these Palestinian officials have not named the foreign actors they refer to, it appears they are particularly concerned about pressure from Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). All of them have diverse stakes in the elections and pursue certain results in accordance with their regional and national interests.
It is no secret that President Mahmoud Abbas’ call for elections was not a voluntary decision or due to Arab efforts, but was the result of American and European pressure. The European Union has even threatened to end its financial support for Ramallah if the elections are called off. Brussels and Washington both want the Palestinian Authority to regain its legitimacy before moving forward in their relations with the Palestinians. The elections are also supported by two other important regional players – Turkey and Qatar.
The announcement of the vote, however, was not well received in some Arab capitals, especially Cairo and Amman. Both fear a repeat of the 2006 elections, when Hamas won the decisive victory in Gaza, which led to armed conflict with Fatah. If this happens again, it could have a destabilizing effect on both Egyptian and Jordanian internal affairs.
The Egyptian regime in particular sees Hamas as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which it has been trying to eradicate since the coup against President Mohamed Morsi’s government in 2013. A Hamas victory could make it more immune to pressure Cairo, because it would gain electoral legitimacy. It could also reinvigorate the Brotherhood in Egypt.
Jordan also fears a stronger Hamas, but it also worries about any sort of post-election instability, which could cause unrest among the large Palestinian population it hosts.
The UAE is also showing keen interest in the Palestinian elections. In leading Arab normalization efforts with Israel, he has sought to take the Palestinian issue back to its traditional bosses – Egypt and Jordan – in order to further solidify its relationship with Israel and secure the support of the United States.
Israel was also not satisfied with the announcement of new Palestinian elections. Although he has organized four elections in two years for his own citizens, he prefers that the Palestinians do not go to the polls at all because he wants to preserve the status quo. Israel wants Abbas to remain in power and to continue cooperation with the Israeli security services, which would allow the Israeli occupation and apartheid to develop unabated. For this reason, whoever forms the next Israeli government after the March 23 elections is likely to seek a victory for Fatah (especially Abbas’s wing) and attempt to undermine Hamas.
Already, Israeli forces have attempted to intimidate Hamas operatives in the West Bank, arresting some of their leaders and harassing others to discourage them from running for office.
The first indication that the Palestinian elections will not be an internal affair came on January 17, less than 48 hours after Abbas issued his presidential decree announcing the election dates, as Egyptian and Jordanian intelligence chiefs Abbas Kamel and Ahmed Hosni, have traveled. in Ramallah.
I learned from Palestinian sources close to the first visit that Kamel and Hosni discussed details of the election procedure with Abbas, including the political situation in Fatah, which has struggled against internal divisions and could potentially face challenges. defections before the vote.
Currently, there is no consensus within the party on Abbas’s re-election and there is a possibility that challengers will emerge. The candidacy of Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader who is serving several life sentences in an Israeli prison, is already enjoying growing support.
In addition, there is also no consensus within Fatah on the candidates for the Legislative Council. Currently, a few different electoral rolls are being prepared which will seek to attract the traditional Fatah electorate: one by Abbas’s circle; one of Nasser al-Qudwa, nephew of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat; and one by Mohammed Dahlan, the former Gaza security chief, who was kicked out of Fatah in 2011.
These disagreements within Fatah ahead of the elections will certainly benefit Hamas, which has succeeded in building internal cohesion and will find it difficult to beat its weakened and divided opponent.
It is for this reason that Egypt and Jordan want to ensure that Fatah has a unified electoral list and a consensual candidate for the presidential election. And it is for the same reason that they pressure Abbas to reconcile with Dahlan.
The former Fatah official has been a close ally of the UAE, which for the past decade has taken care of him, sponsored him and supported him in every way. Some observers believe Abu Dhabi is preparing Dahlan as the future leader of the Palestinian Authority. This has caused Abbas a lot of anxiety and he has so far refused to allow Dahlan to return to the party.
Dahlan and his supporters make no secret of the Emirati political, media and financial support they are receiving in order to be able to return to Palestinian politics. This support enabled them to forge alliances with Palestinian political forces, including Fatah figures, unhappy with Abbas.
Hamas, which opposed returning members of Dahlan’s faction to the Gaza Strip because of their role in the 2007 armed conflict, ultimately agreed to allow them to return after coming under pressure from Egypt. This allowed Dahlan to announce several humanitarian projects for the Palestinians, including the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, without coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
The ultimate goal of all these activities is to ensure the election of a new Palestinian leadership which would be easily influenced by these foreign powers and forced to accept any new demands made by Israel. Each of these actors wants to play a major role in the Palestinian question, hoping to take an interest in the United States and receive its support.
But what this interference will do is undermine the democratic process in Palestine and once again sabotage the authority of the will of its people.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.