When Hamas won the 2006 elections, Israel imposed a siege on Ismail Haniyeh’s government. The siege was supported by the US, the EU and Arab countries, as no major capitals in the Arab world would deal with the democratically-elected Palestinian government.
The Arab countries reacted to the blockade in favour of the Israeli occupation authorities for two reasons. First of all, they hate all political Islam movements, especially the Muslim Brotherhood, Haniyeh’s Hamas is an off-shoot of the Brotherhood. Moreover, the Arab world submitted to US pressure linked to mutual interests and financial aid.
The most dangerous aspect of the siege was Mahmoud Abbas’s understanding of it and the demands of the besieging parties. He refused to cooperate with Haniyeh’s government, and even called for early elections three months after Hamas’s victory.
Now Abbas has decreed that elections will take place later this year. We in occupied Palestine are at a crossroads. Will Hamas participate in the election process? And if and when they are actually held, will the results, no matter who wins, be recognised and accepted by the US, the US and Arab countries? Will, indeed, Abbas accept the results if he and his Fatah movement don’t win?
The nature of the constituencies in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank means that Fatah and Abbas cannot be certain of victory, and the aforementioned countries and blocs feel that there are no strong guarantees that they will win, especially in the West Bank. They all fear that Hamas may take part in the elections to affirm its national rights, its steadfastness against the blockade and its wide popularity, while demonstrating the people’s love for resistance against the Israeli occupation.
In other words, there are real considerations to be taken into account that could push Hamas to compete for all of the legislative council seats. Such a competition is separate from the responsibility of forming a government or leaving it to an independent figure.
Hence, the Palestinian people need guarantees from Fatah and Abbas — and from the countries that pressured Hamas to agree to holding successive rather than simultaneous presidential, legislative and National Council elections — that the results will be accepted. There is no value in elections in which Abbas agrees to submit to Israel’s veto.
Moreover, the Palestinians are asking about the transparency and integrity of the elections. They have the right to be reassured that the voting process will be free and fair, because if it isn’t then the tenuous unity of society will be destroyed. However, will the reassurances and guarantees be enough, and will they be honoured? We just don’t know. After all, didn’t Israel make guarantees in the Shalit prisoner exchange deal which it failed to uphold?
So what are Palestinian voters asking for? Transparency, integrity and sincerity before, during and after the elections.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.