It’s rare these days to find anything that Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. and Israel agree on. And yet when it comes to elections there is a choosing their leaders, Bloomberg analyst Eli Lake writes:
The last time they did was 10 years ago, on Jan. 25, 2006: elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Since then, Palestinian politics have been stuck, while much of the Arab world convulsed in revolution. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, is today in the 11th year of a four- year term. Hamas has ruled Gaza since taking the strip by force in 2007.
It’s understandable why the ruling parties in Gaza and the West Bank would oppose new elections. Neither Hamas or Abbas’s Fatah are popular these days, and both regimes have consolidated their power since the late 2000s.
“The main motive of Abbas is to keep himself in power as long as he can,” said Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel’s internal security service. “He is holding the three main jobs. He is president of the Palestinian Authority. He is practically the head of the parliament because the Palestinian parliament hasn’t met for years, and he is the leader of the PLO.”
There are lessons to be drawn from today’s reports of systematic torture in the West Bank and Gaza, notes Elliott Abrams, a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:
One, as noted, is that official Palestinian human rights abuses get next to zero attention. Another lesson is that this immunity carries a price–and the price is paid by Palestinians. Instead of evolving steadily toward a more democratic political system that respects human rights, the Palestinian system has stalled. There are no elections, there are widespread human rights abuses, there are few or no corrective mechanisms, and there is global indifference.
“Governments and organizations that say they want to help build peace in the Middle East should realize that withholding criticism of the PA for its abuses is not a way forward,” says Abrams, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “It is a guarantee that human rights conditions in the West Bank will continue to deteriorate.”
Some 67 per cent of West Bank Palestinians say they live in an undemocratic system that curbs the will of the people and their personal freedoms, according to the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research.
Meanwhile, civil society leaders among Palestinians in Israel are more assertive in demanding civic, economic, and political equality, and more confident in condemning discrimination, reports suggest.
“These are social revolutions in terms of modernization and Israelization. We are becoming more and more similar to Israeli society in educational and employment habits, and also in our political participation,” says Mohammad Darawshe, a director at Givat Haviva, a nonprofit educational institute that promotes equality between Arabs and Jews.