Why Israel Should Let Palestinians Hold Elections

Palestinian political parties finally agreed in November to hold long-awaited parliamentary and presidential elections in early 2020 and there is cautious optimism that the political landscape might be revived, making the Palestinian public and their grievances visible to an oblivious and ruthless political elite.

The elections would also be a solid pathway to intra-Palestinian reconciliation; they could bring an end to more than 13 years of division and contested legitimacy between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas; and they would be akin to a referendum on who's most deserving of leading the Palestinian the struggle, and in what direction.

The path to the polls, however, ran into a possible dead-end earlier this month, when the PA asked Israel to allow East Jerusalem residents to vote in the election.
Palestinians in East Jerusalem were allowed to vote and run for office in the 2006 elections, a year before Hamas staged its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip. Israel has yet to respond to the request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian parties agree that holding elections is entirely contingent upon securing the right to vote for East Jerusalemites.

Israel's unwillingness to let this happen can be easily predicted from its systematic crackdown on any PA activities in East Jerusalem in recent years. However, standing in the way of such a crucial milestone would mean fueling a ticking bomb planted under an inherently destabilizing status quo. The opportunities presented to Israel by these elections far outweigh any risks, and range from encouraging the emergence of new and more pragmatic views in Palestinian politics to offering a way out of the stalemate over the Gaza Strip.

Hamas nightmare

Of course, the first question on everyone's mind is what happens if Hamas wins the elections and becomes in charge of the PA in the West Bank and Gaza.

 Hamas has developed multiple ideas to avoid repeating the mistakes it made in 2006, when it won a majority in the legislative council and formed a Hamas-led government under Ismail Haniyeh which was widely boycotted by the international community.