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Op-Ed: Obama, Bring on the Elections - In "Palestine"

Any attempt by any Palestinian Arabs to have a say in electing a leadership that might act decisively against terror and end violence has been silenced since 25 January 2006. They have no way out - even if they want one.
Published: Friday, February 08, 2013 2:20 AM


Democracy continues to be seen nowhere in the virtual "State of Palestine" - whilst Israel's choice for next Prime Minister - Benjamin Netanyahu - is engaged in the usual machinations involved in putting a coalition together to govern democratic Israel for the next four years.



Such political comings and goings are being eagerly followed by a free press commenting with gay abandon on every twist and turn in the daily developments - as their avid readership devours the opinions of dozens of different commentators in newspapers and on radio, television and the internet with very different political viewpoints.



The 2003 Bush Roadmap For Peace - supposedly still the basis on which the long -stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (defunct since 3 January 2013) were being conducted - was uncompromising in its final destination:

 

"A two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only be achieved through an end to violence and terrorism, when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror and willing and able to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty, and through Israel's readiness to do what is necessary for a democratic Palestinian state to be established, and a clear, unambiguous acceptance by both parties of the goal of a negotiated settlement as described below."


Any attempt by the "Palestinian people " to have any say in electing a leadership that will act decisively against terror and ending violence and terrorism has been silenced since 25 January 2006 - when their votes in Gaza elected Hamas as winner of the elections with 74 seats to Fatah's 45 - providing Hamas with the majority of the 132 available seats and the ability to form a majority government of its own.

 

The people chose the wrong horse - if they expected violence and terrorism would end - but then they have to live with their choice until they get another chance to change their minds.



That is surely the essence of democracy - that there is an "out" - the ability of the people to regularly express their confidence or otherwise in the people they have elected.

 

However, the people in the Palestinian Authority have not been given this opportunity since 2006.

 

The elected Hamas Prime Minister - Ismail Haniya - was unceremoniously dumped by Palestinian Authority President - Mahmoud Abbas - on 15 June 2007 on the basis of "national emergency".

 

This has resulted in bitter internecine strife between Hamas and Fatah ever since - that has seen the human rights of hundreds of thousands of the electorate abused in an orgy of violence, killing and detention without trial.

 

Frequent attempts to effect a reconciliation have failed - and will continue to fail - as both pursue very different political goals and objectives.

 

The people need to be the circuit breakers in this long running dispute - but indications are they will not be allowed to have their say.

 

Meantime - President Mahmoud Abbas continues to hold the reins of power as an unelected and unconstitutional President - whose term expired on 9 January 2009.

 

Due to the conflict he had created by dismissing Haniya in 2007 - Abbas unilaterally extended his term for another year, but still continues in office in 2013 even after that second deadline expired.



As a result - Hamas announced that it would not recognise the extension or view Abbas as rightful president.



Yet Abbas is still given the full Presidential treatment internationally wherever he travels.



Following Abbas's election as President on 9 January 2005 - David Carroll, acting director of the Democracy Program and an active member of the Carter Center -NDI observer delegation to that election - discussed the election process, its outcome and the wider implications for Middle East Peace.



He was asked the following question and gave the following response

 

Q. What does this election mean to democracy in the region?


 

Carroll: Many people see the Jan. 9 presidential election as an opportunity for a new leader to recommit to the peace process and make real progress in negotiations with Israel. In addition, however, the election sets an important example for the Arab world; it shows Arab peoples and leaders that citizens' yearnings for democracy can and should be met, and that democratic renewal strengthens political legitimacy. Further, like the recent elections in Indonesia, the Palestinian election is a reminder that Islam and democracy are not incompatible.


Carroll may indeed be proved right if events of the past few years of revolts and riots in Yemen, Libya, Egypt and Syria are indicators.



The real test of democracy however is not the first election - it is the second election.



Sadly - any such moves to allow citizen yearnings for democracy continue to be denied in the one Islamic area where it is essential they be allowed - the Palestinian Authority.

 

Whilst this sorry state of affairs continues the following words of the Bush Road Map remain meaningless:

 

A settlement, negotiated between the parties, will result in the emergence of an independent, democratic, and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel and its other neighbours.


 

Those non-democratic states supporting a fictitious "State of Palestine" - headed by an unconstitutional President, an unelected Government with an unelected Prime Minister and a far from free press - will certainly be unable to grasp the importance of elections to allow the people to have their say after seven years of enforced silence.

 

The world's democracies should know better.

 

"Bring on the elections" should be their unified and rallying demand.

 

Perhaps President Obama should whisper such words in Abbas's ear when he meets with him next month.



Whilst the democracies remain silent - the scars of war and conflict can not heal.