Politics Duplicity is a diplomatic game, but not one to play with Palestinian elections
EXPLAINER: New players add volatility in Jerusalem tensions
JERUSALEM (AP) — The holy city of Jerusalem, a tinderbox of competing religious and political claims, has repeatedly triggered bouts of Israeli-Palestinian violence. This time around, there have been some additional sparks, including Jewish extremists who, emboldened by their political patrons’ recent election to parliament, staged a provocative march to Jerusalem’s walled Old City chanting “death to the Arabs.” Over the course of a few days, nightly Jerusalem street brawls between Israeli police and disaffected Palestinian residents of the city escalated to cross-border fighting between Israel and Gaza’s Islamic militant Hamas.
It has often been said, somewhat in jest, that diplomats are people who are sent abroad to lie for their country. But they can also lie at home, or be disingenuous if a more diplomatic description is preferred. The problem with such a tactic is that it not only damages American credibility abroad and at home, it also can undermine our professed values and ability to achieve our goals.
A good example of this diplomatic double-talk occurred at the State Department's. Journalists repeatedly asked about the U.S. government's reaction to the announcement that Palestinian legislative elections, which were to be held this month, indefinitely. The official response, which the State Department press spokesperson was forced to repeat five times, was: "The exercise of democratic elections is a matter for the Palestinian people and for the Palestinian leadership to determine."
Democratic Norms Come First | Opinion
Elections without freedom are nothing more than rigged, coercive referenda. One way to avoid having to "respect the results" of an election is to cancel it. Which is precisely what the State Department is trying to do with the Palestinian Authority's (PA) parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May and July, respectively. The PA skipping elections is certainly nothing new. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is in the 16th year of his four-year term, and the last legislative election produced a Hamas majority that was never seated. The result was a bloody Palestinian civil war.
That answer is untruthful on two counts: The Palestinian people were not consulted, and those who made the decision cannot be considered the only Palestinian leaders. Palestinians have not had an election for 15 years. That they want them is demonstrated by the fact thatof eligible Palestinians are registered to vote. (In 2016, only of Americans cared enough about their democracy to register.) Thirty-six groups submitted lists of candidates for the Palestinian legislative elections. The decision to delay the election was announced by President Mahmoud Abbas the day before campaigning by these groups would have begun officially.
Abbas said he had been informed by the United States,and some Arab countries that Israel would not allow the elections to take place in Jerusalem because "Israel can't make a decision because there is no government in Israel." Following Israel's fourth election in two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been unable to of parties to form a government.
Super Thursday: Britain heads to polls in array of elections
LONDON (AP) — Polling stations across Britain opened Thursday for what are considered the biggest set of elections outside a general election, local and regional contests that could have huge repercussion for the future of the United Kingdom. On what has been dubbed Super Thursday, tens of millions of voters are electing governments for Scotland and Wales, big city mayors, including for London, as well as local authorities up and down the land. © Provided by Associated Press British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as he leaves a polling station with his partner Carrie Symonds after casting his vote in local council elections in London, Thursday May 6, 2021.
Prior to the announcement by Abbas, Alon Bar, a political adviser to the Israeli foreign minister,"Israel will not prevent the elections in the Palestinian Authority from happening. The Palestinian elections are an internal Palestinian matter, and Israel will not intervene." In other words, duplicity is a diplomatic game that many can play, and it is no stranger in the Middle East.
The real reason Abbas refuses to hold elections is that, his political party, is in disarray. It has splintered into several factions and has a history of corruption and incompetence. The decision by Abbas must have been a relief to Netanyahu. The latter cannot afford to lose even the most extreme, far-right parties as he searches for a way to form a parliamentary majority. Allowing East Jerusalemites to vote would hint that someday Netanyahu just might agree to the creation of a Palestinian state that might have a small part of Jerusalem as its capital. That would lose him the support of the who have won seats in the Knesset and believe that Israel should annex the entire West Bank and that Palestinians who don't accept being second-class citizens should emigrate.
State Department 'extremely concerned' over violence in Jerusalem
The State Department said it is "extremely concerned" over mushrooming violence in Jerusalem after reports that scores of people were injured in renewed clashes Friday night. © Getty State Department 'extremely concerned' over violence in Jerusalem The clashes near Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque, an area that is holy to all three Abrahamic religions, coincided with the waning days of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The clashes appeared to center around evictions of Palestinians by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem and attacks on Israeli soldiers.
The U.S. response to the game Abbas is playing was to make statements that are as pious as they are untrue. The Palestinian people had no say in the decision and the small part of the ruling elite that Abbas represents cares mainly about its grip on power.
Sometimes taking an obviously disingenuous position is seen as necessary to protect American interests. In this case, there is the fear that Hamas, which the U.S. still considers a, could take control of the Legislative Council. Having had control of Gaza for years, it has grown corrupt and complacent, so that by no means is assured.
Denying Palestinians the right to choose their leaders will not help move that part of the Middle East toward greater stability. Renewing theto Palestinians that former President Trump cut off also will not buy peace. Palestinians are desperately in need of new leadership and the change that elections can bring. American interests would be better served by being true to American values and really supporting democracy.
Dennis Jett is a professor in theat Penn State University and a former ambassador to Peru and Mozambique. Follow him on Twitter .
Don’t Take the Narrow View of What’s Happening in Gaza .
Wars and skirmishes don’t occur in a vacuum.Despite inching toward the Democratic Party’s left flank on various domestic- and foreign-policy issues, the Biden administration has fallen back on the usual formulas, offering robotic recitations about “Israel’s right to defend itself.” On Thursday, President Joe Biden said that he hadn’t seen a “significant overreaction” from Israel, while failing to mention a word about Palestinian deaths. In so doing, he gave Israel what amounts to a green light to intensify its bombing campaign.