By signaling their desire to organize elections within six months, the Palestinian factions came to a common finding on Thursday, September 24: to remain motionless is to let oneself die. Fifteen years after the last ballot in 2005, Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas Islamists, whose senior representatives were negotiating in Istanbul, have only this card in hand. The aim is to respond to the rapprochement of their Gulf Arab allies with Israel, enshrined in the normalization agreements signed by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on September 15 in Washington.
“It’s a survival strategy. They are at bay. They are aware that these agreements are only the beginning of a process, and they are preparing for Riyadh to follow in turn ”, underlines a European diplomat in Jerusalem. For months, the media of both parties have kept their invectives under wraps, and political arrests appear to have stopped on both sides. But since January they have announced such a return to the polls. “And there is no reason to still believe in such an optimistic timetable, as long as President Abbas has not published a decree setting a date and a mechanism to arrive at the first legislative election”, notes analyst Reham Owda in Gaza.
A presidential election should follow, then the board of the Palestine Liberation Organization would be supplemented by a third vote, which would involve the diaspora in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere. This dynamic therefore appears for the time being as a counter-fire, intended to buy time until the US presidential election in November. If Democrat Joe Biden wins, Abbas could resume a dialogue with Washington, interrupted in 2018, and forget about the risky ballot game.
At the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, the “raïs” again called for the organization of an international conference in early 2021, supposed to relaunch the “Peace process”. He knows that negotiations with Israel are impossible as they stand. But he seeks to mark the end of the enterprise of demolition of the established parameters, endorsed by the UN, in which the Trump administration and the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, have been engaged for four years.
The sign of a weakening
This dialogue between Palestinian factions, conducted in Istanbul, where Hamas cadres reside, was to continue in Qatar on Friday. Aware of the risk that there would be to alienate the Arab states a little more, the secretary general of Fatah, Jibril Rajoub, was careful to present Turkey as a mere host, and not as a sponsor. Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said his party had yet to review the deal. A meeting of all factions is due to endorse it in early October. A possible presidential decree may not be published until after November.
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