Julian Schvindlerman
Julian Schvindlerman

The Coming Palestinian Elections

Photo by Makbula Nassar - Wikimedia.org

If all goes according to plan, the Palestinians will be holding legislative elections on May 22, followed by presidential elections on July 31. These would be the first national elections to take place since 2006.

A recent report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) looked at the number of convicted terrorists on the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) ballot and raised questions about possible political, budgetary and legal consequences. The authors Katherine Bauer and Matthew Levitt noted that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has also nominated candidates with criminal records for terrorism (Ahmed Sadat and Khalida Jarrar) and that the main faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Fatah, has Marwan Barghouti pondering moving forward with an independent list, despite being incarcerated in Israel serving multiple life sentences for various murders.

Among the convicted terrorists on Hamas’ list, Bauer and Levitt stand out ten of them. Here I am showing five:

-Jamal Muhammad Farah al-Tawil, a senior Hamas military commander in the West Bank who planned several suicide bombings, including one in 2001 in Jerusalem that killed twelve Israelis and injured nearly two hundred.

-Jamal Abd al-Shamal Abu Hija, sentenced to nine life sentences for his participation in half a dozen attacks, including one in 2001 and another in 2002 that killed 24 Israelis.

-Muhammad Abu Tir (Abu Musab), who spent more than thirty-seven years in jail for terrorist activities.

-Nahed al-Fakhouri, sentenced to twenty-two years in prison for recruiting suicide bombers in Hebron.

-Khaled Yousef Abdulrahman Saleh Mardawi (Abu Iba), sentenced to life imprisonment in 1992 for killing a man suspected of collaborating with Israel.

Apparently, Fatah filed more than 200 objections against certain Hamas candidates but none related to the terrorist actions of those on the ballot. Bauer and Levitt recall that relations between the Palestinians and the international community are based on the Palestinian commitment to non-violence, the recognition of Israel and the acceptance of previous agreements (in reference to the Oslo Accords and subsequent ones). This leads them to wonder about the political, budgetary and legal challenges this poses to Europe and Washington: in the near future they will have to decide whether to endorse or repudiate the electoral participation of this fundamentalist movement and its convicted terrorists.

In addition to these considerations, one could reflect on a moral one, which, at a fundamental level, takes us back in time to the very genesis of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and the events that it unleashed. Although it may sound old-fashioned to say so, a simple glance at the Palestinian electoral lists should educate an objective observer about the root-cause of the peace process failure. The perils of negotiating with terrorists of the secular PLO 28 years ago are now returning boomerang-like as an impossible challenge: either legitimize a list of Islamic fundamentalists or risk the collapse of the first Palestinian elections in fifteen years.

Yet another Oslo dilemma.

About the Author
Julian Schvindlerman is an Argentine writer and journalist specializing in Middle East affairs. He lectures on World Politics at the University of Palermo (in Buenos Aires) and is a regular contributor to Infobae and Perfil. He is the author of Escape to Utopia: Mao's Red Book and Gaddafi's Green Book; The Hidden Letter: A History of an Arab-Jewish Family; Triangle of Infamy: Richard Wagner, the Nazis and Israel; Rome and Jerusalem: Vatican policy toward the Jewish state; and Land for Peace, Land for War.
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